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Pressure Groups
Unit 1 Government And Politics Edexcel
Political Studies
11th Grade

Additional Political Studies Flashcards




Pressure Groups
  • An association of people who share certain political goals 
  • Pressure groups seek either to defend or futher interests of a paticular section of society or to promote a particular cause or issue
  • They do not seek governmental power, but merely  to influence the political system
  • They seek to mobilise as wide a level of support as possible 
Sectional Pressure Groups
  • Represent a section of society 
  • Only intereseted in the interests of that group and have narrow goals
  • E.G. Confederation of British Industry (CBI), National Union of Students (NUS), British Bankers' Association (BBA) 
Promotional Pressure Groups
  • Pursue an issue or a cause 
  • They are open to all members of the community and are altruistic 
  • They believe that their cause or issue will benefit the community 
  • E.G. Friends of the Earth (FoE), Unlock Democracy, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
Insider Pressure Groups
  • Pressure groups that have special connections with government and Parliament
  • Direct access to decision-makers and are involved with the development of policy
  • They are regularly consulted by ministers, civil servants and policy advisors 
  • Consulted by Parliamentary Committees
  • Have representatives sitting on policy and advisory committees
  • E.G. National Farmers Union (NFU), Royal Society for the Protection of Animals (RSPCA), Automobile Association (AA)
Outsider pressure Groups
  • Do not have direcect acess to government or Parliament or Decision makers in general
  • Possibly to  maintain their independence or the decision makers do not wish to be associated with them 
  • Operate by Mobilising public support and put pressure on decision-makers 
  • Use direct action i.e. street demonstrations, publicity stunts
  • Use media campaigns, the internet and social networks
  • Use e-petitions
  • e.g. Greenpeace, Animal Liberation front, Countryside Alliance 
Difference Between Pressure groups and parties
  • Parties actively seek to gain governmental power or a share of power, wheras groups do not seek power
  • Parties must develop policies across the full range of government business; pressure groups have narrow goals normally concentrating on one isue or the narrow interests of one group 
  • Parties have to make themselves accountable for their policies, pressure groups do not 
  • Parties normally have a formal organisation, pressure groups may be formally organised, but sare often very loose organisations 
Similarities between Parties and Pressure Groups
  • Pressure groups sometimes put up candidates up for election in order to publicise their goals or ssue, bt does not mean they seek power, merely influence
  • Some pressure groups develop a wide range of policies like parties e.g. Trade unions and the CBI
  • Sometimes pressure groups transform themselves into parties there may be confusion over such transitional groups - e.g. The Green Party and UKIP
  • Some pressure groups are very closely associated with parties, e.g. trade unions with Labour (less so now), Countryside Alliance and Conservatives 
How Pressure groups enhance Pluralism
  • They dispese power and influence very widely (especially mass membership groups)
  • They ensure that many groups are able to exert political influence
  • They help to protect the interests of groups in society (sectional groups) 
  • They balance the power of centralised government
How pressure groups enhance elitism
  • Some poweful wealthy, influential pressure groups may concentrate power in few hands (for example, large producer grups)
  • Influential insider groups may seve to concentrate more power in government hands
  • Some pressure groups may be led by unaccountable elites
  • Some groups may hold a disproportionate amount of power 
Why are pressure groups becoming more important?
  • Membership of, and identification with, political parties is declining. Pressure group activity has replaced this, to some extent.
  • Arguably the electorate is now better informed and therefire more able to become involved in political issues
  • The internet and new social made have made it more practicable to mount campaigns and initiate new associations 
  • Both the number of pressure groups and their memebership. Some groups have millions of members and supporters
  • Society has become more pluralistic and fragmented into groups which have special interests. Refelected in the proliferation of interest groups. 
  • The political system is now more accessible to group activity, there are more points of access and politicians are more sensitive to public opinion
  • Growing affluence means that the population have more interests and thus make more demands on the politcal system 

Methods used by pressure groups 

  • Lobbying ministers - Insiders feel they can influence decisions and policy - e.g. CBI 
  • Sitting on advisory and policy committees in governent - They can supply specialist information and advice - British Medical Association 
  • Lobbying EU institutions - Most of their concers are under the jurisdiction of the EU - National Farmers' Union 
  • Organising mass publc demonstrations - They have widespread support but are outsiders - Stop the war campaign 
  • Media Campaigns - Celebrities are involved and th issue captures the public imagination - Justice for Ghurkas campaign 
  • Civil disobedience - Outsider groups need to attract publicity - Green Peace
  • Internet Campaigns - Probably issues that appeal mostly to the young - Friends of the earth
  • Action through law courts - The rights of members are threatened - Trade unions 
Reasons for Pressure group success
  • Resources - Financial and organisational, giving a group the ability and people to mount a major campaign e.g. The countryside Alliance organised mass demonstratons in London and Anti-foc hunting legislation was sucessfully watered down in 2004
  • Insider Status - being established in government circles and well trusted e.g. ASH, a series of pieces of legislation were intorduced to deter and reduce smoking
  • Lack of opposition - Make poverty history in 1900s and 200s, experienced little opposition to its championing of developing countris, governments raised heir commitments to foreign debt relief and increased overseas aid 
  • Tactics -  groups may find a good formula for influening government and mobilising public suppor e.g. Save England's forests used a variety of tactics, including a huge e-petition ceberity campaigners, demonstrations and MP involvement  and plans to sell of large quantities of publicly owned forest in 2010 were cancelled 
Examples of Pressure Groups
  • British Bankers' Association - Sectional - Insider - Concentrates power - Lobbying Ministers
  • Greenpeace - Promotional - Outsider - Disperse Power - Direct action, Civil Disobidience 
  • Liberty - Promotional - Outsider - Disperse power - Media Campaigns 
  • Countryside Alliance - Sectional - Outsider - Disperse ower - Media Campaigns, public demonstrations , civil disobedience 
  • Institute of Directors - Sectional - Insider - Concentrate Power - Lobbying, advisory committees 
Ways in which pressure groups enhance democracy
  • Act as a a form of representation, represent areas of society that may be ignored by political parties
  • They help to disperse power more widely, preventing dangerous concentrations of power 
  • They help to educate and inform the public about important issues 
  • They may help the governing process by providing informed advice - insider pressure groups 
  • Provide ways in which people can participate in politics, especially with the decline in traditional forms of participation
  • Provide an outlet for public grievance - a process known as 'tension release' 
Ways in which pressure groups do not support democracy
  • They can undermine the authority of elected officials and Parliament
  • They can be seen as representing the 'politics of self-interest' and may present the public with biased or even false information 
  • If they are too powerful, they may create 'hyper pluralism' which can hold up the process of government by being too obstructive 
  • Pressure groups lack elective legitimacy and are not democratically accountable 
  • Those that engage in civil disobedience threaten orer in society and subvert democracy 
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