- To develop an understanding of pressure
groups, their roles, aims and strategies.
- To examine the differences between political
parties and pressure groups.
- To research why some pressure groups are more
successful than others in achieving their aims.
Past Exam Questions
Referring to A campaign you know, briefly examine the
extent to which it achieved its aims? (20)
Referring to a campaign you know, evaluate the role of
the media in contributing to its success or failure. (20)
Briefly examine why some pressure group campaigns
are more successful than others.(20)
Assess the views that those who use extra-
parliamentary action are more successful than those
who use parliamentary action?(20)
What is a Pressure Group?
An organised group that seeks to
- Influence Government policy.
- Protect or advance a particular interest or cause.
- Promote a specific issue and raise it onto the public agenda
Pressure Groups operate at different levels of political life.
- International (inc European Union and major global institutions)
Groups are important channels of influence between groups of people and
Pressure groups do not look for the power of political office for themselves,
but do seek to influence the decisions made by those who do hold this
Key roles of Interest Groups
- Promote discussion and debate in a Democracy.
- Role in educating citizens about specific issues.
- Enhances democratic participation and diversity.
- Raises issues of importance that political parties will shy away
from because of their sensitive nature.
- Access point for those seeking redress of grievance.
- Represent minorities who cannot represent themselves.
- Specialist source of information that can be used to help the
legislature and civil service.
- Important role in implementing public policy.
- Pressure groups encourage a decentralisation of power.
Pressure Groups and Political Parties
Pressure Groups are different from mainstream
They have different organisational interests and
Political parties seek representation and power whereas
Groups in the main seek to influence power.
Pressure Groups are normally concerned with a specific
issue and would have no interest in taking responsibility
for the running of the country.
Some links between Pressure Groups
and Political Parties
Importance of political participation at all levels.
Some organisational links between some groups
and political parties.
- Trade Union financial support for the Labour
- Corporate donations to all parties.
Many MP’s, Peers and MEP’s are also members
of Pressure Groups.
Inside or Outside Pressure Group
One basic distinction is between Insider and Outsider groups.
Insider groups are those which develop close relationships with
government departments or other official bodies. They are
trusted by the departments and negotiate quietly, unobtrusively
for their members – often on issues which most citizens would
not recognise or understand.
Outsider groups lack such close and business-like links with
government. Lacking recognition from the top, they will seek to
convert and mobilise public opinion, often using demonstrations
and rallies. Outsider groups often attract more attention in the
press and from citizens than Insider groups – but that is usually a
sign of their weakness.
What Constitutes Success?
A change in the way the Government responds
to an issue (e.g. foot and mouth, fuel tax
A change in the law either through an
amendment to existing legislation or through
Increased public awareness.
Preventing or delaying action e.g. building a
Factors Behind Success
• Political compatibility with the Government of the day.
-Traditionally the Unionists have had more success with labour and organised business
with the Conservatives).
- Inside outside pressure group.
• Financial wealth and other resources.
-Main business lobby groups who have control over major economic resources e.g.
Confederation of Business and Industry).
• Quality of organisation.
-Reputation and authority of leaders.
- Quality of research and information available to policy makers
• Success in achieving mobilisation in support (creation of a critical mass that demands
- strength and size of public opinion.
-successful use of public figures to front a campaign.
• Ability to cause major disruption e.g. fuel cut protests lead by the Road Haulage
Association and Farmers for action
Some Recent Campaigns
Campaign for Sarah www.forsarah.com
Gun Control Campaign www.gun-control-
The Stephen Lawrence Campaign
The Greenpeace Book Campaign
Good Case Studies of Protest
Snowdrop- Gun reforms post Dunblane (1996-2000)
Greenpeace- Brent Spar Campaign
Road Haulage Businesses and Road Taxes (Autumn 2000)
Survivors against silicon- effects of breast implants operations.
Countryside Alliance and Rural issues (inc fox hunting).
Trade Unions and the National Minimum Wage
Local campaigns to abolish Grammer Schools.
Betting and Gaming industry- removal of betting tax in the UK.
National Farmers Union and Vaccination (Foot and Mouth)