pressure groups

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pressure groups

A body which seeks to influence government policy without seeking office itself, usually focused on a single issue or narrow group of ideas.

Differs from political party as they just seek to influence policy. Political parties will seek to appeal to a variety of different pressure groups in order to achieve victory.

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Insider Groups

Have direct access to government ministers and top oficials and therefore build up a good professional relationship - can help to formulate policy

Usually a corresponding government ministry e.g BMA and Health Dept.

They are professionals and they are asked their opinion on legislation, help at times of crisis. e.g. NFU during foot and mouth and have professional powers e.g. BMA can strike a doctor off the list

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Outsider Groups

do not wish, or are unable to be close to the government

CND - government would never seek their advice on defence policy. 

The countryside alliance - strong supporter of fox hunting - Labour never sought their advice when banning it - given more sympathy under the Conservatives

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Sectional Groups

represent needs of certain parts of society e.g. teacher, workers and lawyers etc...

seek to improve status of members and hav sometimes been successful - e.g. RMT prevented Underground being privatised

Big fight for public sector pensions at the moment.

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Cause Groups

1) those against a change in their area e.g. plane stupid - protesting against Heathrow 3rd runway

2) those with much wider issues e.g. Occupy, Oxfam, Greenpeace etc...

Can be temporary e.g. pressure groups who campaigned for abolition of death penalty

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Positive Functions

  • enable people to participate in politics in between elections
  • Can allow people to participate in local politics e.g. cause group
  • Allow minorities to have their voice heard preventing tyranny of the majority
  • provide professional and detailed information on topic areas
  • Give government a diverse range of opinions and views
  • They can generate new ideas in areas that politicians perhaps did not have the time to look at e.g. think tanks
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Negative Functions

  • sectional groups can be dominated by powerful groups e.g. BMA and doctors
  • Can force the government to forget about needs of public by protecting their members
  • Contribute to elitist society where they prevent reform - council - slowed down legal reform
  • slow down necessary change and hinder business - Huntingdon life sciences nearly shut down by animal rights activists
  • pressure groups are better organised and wealthier so they get what they want
  • Unelected and dominated by elite groups could impact on rest of the population.
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benefit or hindrance to society


  • allow participation between elections
  • Provide voice for minority groups
  • provide info for Government
  • everyone can have a voice to make a difference
  • publicity widens public debate


  • single issue detract from elections
  • can drown out majority
  • info can be biased and conflicting
  • elites dominate policy influence
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  • petitions, letters lobbying
  • use of the European Union
  • Advertising and use of the media/intrnet
  • peaceful marches and demonstrations
  • use of the judicial system to prevent an injustics
  • strikes
  • publicity stunts
  • professional lobbhyists
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Factors affecting success

  • support of the media - very fickle - most effective if sustained over years
  • How close an election is and if it will win votes or not
  • unity of the group
  • quality of management and organisation
  • size of support - can have electoral impact
  • leadership - high profile celebrity = good
  • wealth
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