According to Duncan Watts, a pressure group can be an organized group that seeks to influence government policy or protect or advance a particular cause or interest. They can also be described as ‘interest groups’, ‘lobby groups’ or ‘protest groups.’ Some people avoid using the term ‘pressure group’ as it can mistakenly be interpreted as meaning the groups use actual pressure to achieve their aims, which does not necessarily happen.
The term pressure group has a very broad definition that does not clearly distinguish between the groups that fall under the term. For example, In Britain we see a pressure group can be a huge organisation like the CBI (Confederation of British Industry), which represents 150,000 businesses, and it can also be a single-issue locally based organisation like CLARA (Central Area Leamington Resident’s Association), which represents less than 300 households campaigning to preserve and improve the town of Leamington Spa.
The definition also does not distinguish between the more extreme pressure groups such as the Animal Liberation Front, whose campaigns include the illegal activities such as planting bombs, and the pressure groups such as the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), which has links to the Labour government and regular contact with cabinet ministers. (Richard Kimber, Jeremy Richardson, Pressure Groups in Britain) Pressure Groups are particularly different from Political Parties in a way that parties seek representation and power whereas groups in the main seek political influence. Parties often focus on the national interest whereas groups may be concerned with sectional issues/single issues. There are two types of pressure groups.
The Sectional Interest Groups which represents common interests of a particular section of society membership is often closed/restricted sectional groups seek to represent the majority of their particular group of members of the group often stand to gain personally from the success of their campaigns. Also there is The Casual Pressure Groups which promotes a particular set of economic/politics objectives or ideas. Roy Baggott states that the aim of all pressure groups is to influence the people who actually have the power to make decisions.
He also says that pressure groups do not look for the power of political office for themselves, but they do seek to influence the decisions made by those who do hold this political power. We often see pressure groups competing with rival pressure groups with the aim of gaining an advantage over them, but sometimes groups work together to achieve a common aim.
Pressure groups are known to provide a means of popular participation in national politics between elections. They are sometimes able to gather sufficient support to force government to amend or even scrap legislation. Pressure groups also provide a means of participation in local politics between elections. Pressure groups also act as a sense of specialist knowledge, and often have access to information that is highly valued by decision makers. Pressure groups can help make change by their methods that they use to try and influence decision making within the government.
These methods can be legal or illegal. A pressure group will try to influence the public opinion so that if they have more support from the general public the government will listen to what the majority want. A pressure group could use many methods: lobbying, demonstrations, petitions, marches etc. and can do this with permission or without. If one method gains more publicity than the other then there is a chance that they will be more successful. Pressure groups can use a variety of different methods to influence law. Firstly, it can merely inform legislators of its member’s preferences. Second it may well give money or time to help with an election campaign.
Third, its members may threaten, as a group, to vote as a bloc. By doing this they promise to help a cooperative legislator, and threaten to harm a non-cooperative legislator. Fourth, a pressure group may speed up legislation by writing bills and helping legislators make progressive agreements. Finally, a pressure group my attempt to influence members of the executive, who have some law making input and who can partly decide the strength and effectiveness of law enforcement. Coxall tells us about some British pressure groups and what stand for in society.
The first group is the Charter 88 who campaigned for a written constitution and entrenched Bill of Rights. Another one is the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection who was campaigning to halt the breeding and use of animals in experiments. The British Roads Federation who aimed and targeted their focus attention for a higher standard of service from the UK road network. We see the Earth First who was campaigning against the destruction of the environment. Liberty was another pressure group who campaigned to defend and extend human rights and civil liberties.
Unison is another pressure group that operated and fought for trade union for public sector workers. The National Union of Students (NUS), The National Union of Teachers (NUT), The National Farmers Union (NFU), The British Medical Association (BMA), The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) and The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) are all pressure or lobby groups that are in Britain. (Pressure Groups in British Politics pg. 95)
Baggott tells us that it is helpful to talk over the way pressure groups operate within the structure of a “concurrent majority system.” In contemporary use of a concurrent majority, we see that it means a system in which major government policies decisions must be made and approved by the dominant interest or pressure groups which are affected. From interactions among the pressure groups arise and surfaces certain habits that are common, which may be refer to as norms or shared attitude in certain groups, a second kind of response surfaces, these are known as shared attitudes which are directed towards what is needed or wanted in a given situation, as demands or claims on top another groups in society.
Many pressure or interest groups are politicized, in such a way that either from the outset or from time to time in the course of development, that they make claims throughout the institutions of government. We see how it is an integral part of society because as we review the role of pressure groups, we see how effective such organised efforts have been in engaging a response, and we see how over the decades they have brought about changes of great moments. When we look at the executive branch of government, it is clear that those pressure groups, otherwise known as lobby or even interest groups have had a major impact.
Some fears have been expressed or showed as one of a tyrannical role of an irresponsible and arbitrary bureaucracy. The problem is not tyranny but rather it is because of too much responsiveness. The RSPCA is an example of how pressure groups can be an integral part of society. The RSPCA usually tries to influence the public’s opinion or policies of animal welfare. They play a huge, significant role in delivering the public’s opinion especially the welfare policies. It seeks to establish the issues on the political agenda to obtain the right political action. The S.A.V.E Foundation can be used as another example of pressure groups.
The group which stands for Service Alliance for Violent Encounters campaigns on the behalf of persons who have been abused especially women. It seeks to eradicate domestic violence by use of innovation strategies and through collaboration with all sectors of society. So be it, these two groups have the chance to contribute to the decision making, and then they also receive financial contributions directly from the government.
Although it is clear that these groups were being formed years ago, the pressure groups started to grow and eventually became a really important part of society and organisations were formed and were able to be successful in their proposals and from then the pressure groups became one of the ideal groups of society. With that being said, pressure groups are an integral part of society because they act as the voice of the small parts of the societies who are not heard and their mission is to speak up for them and to make a better living for those people.
Also when they form these groups and organisations, a difference is made in a society and it can become a significant impact on that country and other countries. These groups can be widespread and can make a huge improvement and success on societies and also a great statement on the governments who pay attention to their country and make the necessary and desired changes making it better for them during the elections and making the lives of the people a whole lot easier.
BIBLIOGRAPHY* Watts, D., 2007. Edinburgh University Press – ‘Pressure Groups’ * Peterson, S., 1947. Thomas Y Crowell Company – ‘Politics, Parties and Pressure Groups’ * Baggott, R., 1995. Manchester University Press – ‘Pressure Groups Today’ * Cigler, A, Loomis, B., 1995. CQ Press – ‘Interest Groups Politics’ * Kimber, R, Richardson, J., 1974. Oxford University Press Inc. – ‘Pressure Groups in Britain’ * Coxall, W., 2001. Longman Publishing – ‘Pressure Groups in British Politics’ * Davies, M., 1985. British Broadcasting Corporation – ‘Politics of Pressure: The Art of Lobbying’ * Ridley, F, Jordan, A., 1998. Oxford University Press – ‘Protest Politics: Cause groups & Campaigns * Butler, A., 2010. Picnic Publishing Limited – ‘People, Parties & Pressure Groups: Memoirs of a Lobbyist