Pressure groups

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  • Pressure groups
    • Definition
      • An association or movement that campaigns either to further the interests of a section of society, or to further a particular cause or issue.
    • Types
      • Sectional (interest) groups: represent the interests of a particular section of society like occupational groups, professions, age groups, etc.
        • E.g. the BMA, National Union of Teachers, National Farmers Union and Age UK.
      • Promotional (issue) groups: represents an issue which affects the community at local, regional, national or global level.
        • E.g. Greenpeace, Oxfam, Stop the War Coalition and PETA.
      • Insider groups: have close  links with government or parliament or local and regional bodies. These are mostly sectional groups. They are regularly consulted.
        • E.g. the BMA, NFU.
      • Outsider groups: don't have insider influence. These are mostly promotional groups which put pressure on decision makers by mobilising broad public opinion.
        • E.g. Fathers 4 Justice and the Animal Liberation Front.
    • What makes a group successful?
      • Having lots of members and/or followers suggest more pressure on government  and more available funds.
        • E.g, Age UK
      • With ample funds a  group can successfully campaign and use publicity.
        • E.g. UK Finance
      • Groups that are vital to society have more political leverage.
        • E.g. the BMA.
      • Some campaign groups enjoy widespread public support.
        • E.g. Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
      • Some groups have  views which accord with government policy.
        • E.g. Child Poverty Action Group (when Labour was in power)
    • What makes a group unsuccessful?
      • Some groups suffer from lack of active support and funds.
        • E.g. local environmental groups.
      • Sometimes groups and their aims fall out of favour with the government.
        • E.g. trade unions and the Conservatives after 2015.
      • Some groups fail to capture public support.
        • E.g. pro-smoking group Forest.
      • Groups may face powerful adversaries.
        • E.g. anti-fracking groups are opposed by powerful energy companies.
    • Do pressure groups enhance or threaten democracy?
      • Enhance
        • They help to disperse power and influence more widely.
        • Educate the public about important political issues.
        • Give people more opportunities to participate in politics without having to sacrifice too much time or attention.
        • Promote and protect interests and rights of minorities.
        • Help to hold government accountable by publicising effects of policy.
      • Threaten
        • Some are elitist and concentrate power in too few hands.
        • Influential groups may distort information in their own interests.
        • Internally undemocratic groups may not accurately represent views of members and supporters.
        • Finance is a key factor in political influence so wealthier groups may wield too much influence.


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