Pressure groups - Definitions, Differences and Influence.

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Pressure groups:

A pressure group is any organised group that seeks to influence government and public policy at any level.

They’re organised, seek influence not power and are outside of government.

A political purpose aims to influence political decision making or to achieve a political aim. An example of this is the Countryside Alliance who sought to defend fox hunting and prevent the ban. This is the opposite to a social purpose which is to defend or improve the position of a social group.

Local pressure groups seek influence within a locally or regionally defined area.

National pressure groups operate within a country and attempt to influence national politics.

European pressure groups seek influence across Europe and within the EU.

International pressure groups operate around the globe.

Interest groups - concerned with defending or advancing the interests of it's members. unitions like National Union of Teachers or the Confederation of British Industry.

Cause groups - based upon shared attitudes or values. They promote a belief, attitude or principle. Sometimes call promotional, attitude, ideological or preference groups. Examples...Greanpeace who promote green issues and the enviroment or Charter 88 who aim to achieve electoral reform.

The main differences bewtween interest and cause groups are as follows:

  • Membership of interest groups is limitied. Example...only teachers can join NUT whereas, anyone who believes in the cause can join a cause group.
  • Interest groups seek to benefit it's members where as cause groups (in their view) seek to improve things for everbody.

Insider groups - are consulted on a regular basis by government.

Outsider groups - either do not want to become involved with the government or cannot gain government recognition.

Grant (1995) divided these groups further...

High Profile Insider Groups - well known interest groups that are consulted by government. Prepared to use contacts and the media. Examples...National Farmers Union and CBI.

Low Profile Insider Groups - Concentrate solely on government contacts.

Prisoner Groups - insdier groups who find it difficult to break away from their insider status.

Potential Insider Groups - Seek insider status but do not have it yet.

Ousider Groups by Necessity - lack political knowledge or skills to be insider group

Ideological Outsider Groups - Do not expect/want to influence the government - their aims are often against the government - use a lot of direct action and law breaking. Example...the Animal Liberation Front.

There is an overlap of distinction between interest/cause and insider/outsider:

Interest groups are more likely to be insider groups and cause groups are more likely to be outsider groups. Though some cause groups have managed insider status such as MENCAP

Who do pressure groups influence and how?

The Government - they hold the power to advance or hinder their interest or cause. Power in the UK is concentrated in the core executive so the more influence a pressure group has over them, the more likely their interests are going to be advanced. Example: a rise in tax could have a negative effect on business. The…


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