How important are pressure groups

A pressure group is a group of like minded people who seek to influence (put pressure on) government on a particular issue. They do not seek power through being elected.

SECTIONAL (interest) GROUPS: -Act to further their own self-interest goals such as trade unions

PROMOTIONAL (cause) GROUPS: -Act to further a cause not directly related to them (i.e. the greater good. E.g. the environment)


  • Sponsorship of MP’s
  • Direct lobbying of ministers
  • Participation in official committees
  • Representation on QUANGO’s
  • Evidence to parliamentary committees


  • Mass public demonstrations
  • Petitions
  • Campaigns of civil disobedience
  • Media campaigns
  • Illegal activities to gain publicity

Pressure groups increase pluralism – choice for democracy

Pressure groups and democracy:

  • In theory, pressure groups are an asset in a democratic society. They allow ordinary people to participate in politics and even small groups with little money have the chance to influence government policy in the right circumstances.
  • This positive view of pressure groups is called pluralism
  • On balance, however, the evidence tends to support the contrasting ‘elitist’ position on that, although everyone is free to organize on behalf of a favorite cause, certain individuals and groups have an advantage

QUANGO: Quasi Autonomous Non Governmental Organisation

Insider Group
Group of non-elected experts who advice government

NIMBY: Not In My Back Yard

Pressure Group: factors determining success

  • Size of membership
  • Funding
  • Insiders/outsiders
  • Area/location - attitudes of local community
  • Issue/cause
  • Ideology/aims
  • Amount of publicity - attention in media
  • Methods
  • Strength of opposition
  • Organization of group
  • Party in power - favorable?

Functions of Pressure groups

  • Promote discussion and debate and mobilise public opinion on key issues
  • Perform a role in educating citizens about specific issues
  • Groups can enhance democratic participation, pluralism and diversity
  • Groups raise and articulate issues that political parties perhaps won't touch because of their sensitivity
  • They provide an important access point for those seeking redress of grievance
  • They represent minorities who cannot represent themselves
  • Groups can be an important and valuable source of specialist information / expertise for an overloaded legislature and civil service
  • Many groups play an important role in implementing changes to public policy
  • Pressure groups encourage a decentralisation of power within the political system.
  • They act as a check and balance to the power of executive government