Pressure Groups

Pressure Groups
Classifying Groups
Stewart (1958) was one of the earliest
theorists to attempt to classify or identify
differing types of PG’s.
He produced a division between ‘sectional’
and ‘cause’ groups.
What are sectional groups?
Sectional groups seek to represent the
common interests of a particular section of
 As a result, members of sectional groups
are directly and personally concerned with
the outcome of the campaign fought by the
group because they usually stand to gain
professionally and/or economically.
Because sectional groups are solely
concerned with a particular section of
society, membership is usually restricted.
 They tend to aim to get as many eligible
members to join the group as possible.
 Give examples?
It would be fair to say that individual selfinterest is the main motive for much of the
activity of sectional groups.
They are sometimes called ‘economic’
They can also be categorised into
‘professional associations’.
Give examples
What are cause groups?
Primarily exist to promote an idea not
directly related to the personal interests of
its members.
 They pursue a particular set of objectives
(a cause), the achievement of which is not
necessarily of direct professional or
economic benefit to the members of the
Shelter – whose cause is homelessness
 CND – whose cause is nuclear
 The Society for the Protection of the
Unborn Child – whose cause is the
prevention of abortions
The main point about cause groups and
their membership is that they might
potentially be supported by everybody,
regardless of their profession or economic
 Therefore membership is not usually
Cause groups are sometimes termed
‘promotional’ or ‘attitude’ groups.
In the USA, cause groups are dubbed
‘public interest groups’, to emphasise that
they promote collective, rather than
selective benefits.
Cause groups can also be subdivided
according to the aims they pursue:
Sectional cause groups
 Attitude cause groups
 What is the difference?
Sectional cause groups: defend or promote the
interests of specific social groups, e.g. Age
Concern, Shelter, the Child Poverty Action
Group, local voluntary associations.
Attitude cause groups: share common beliefs
and objectives on a particular issue and seek
change in the interests of society as a whole e.g.
the Electoral Reform society
A point worth adding in relation to pressure
groups classification is that many PG’s straddle
the sectional/cause divide.
By this, they represent both their members
interests and are concerned with ideals of
broader causes.
E.G. TU’s often address the issue of social
justice as well as matters such as wages,
conditions and job security
Insider and Outsider Groups
As well as their differing forms, PG’s can
be classified on the basis of their
relationship to government.
 Some authors therein classify them in
terms of ‘status’.
 The distinction is between ‘insider’ and
Insider Groups
Enjoy privileged and usually institutionalised
access to government through routine
consultation and representation on government
Such groups either tend to represent key
economic interests or to possess specialist
knowledge and information relevant to the
government in the process of policy formulation.
For example insider groups might be
included in regular meetings with ministers
or civil servants and they might be
included on lists for circulation of new
government proposals.
 Insider groups tend to be very powerful
and long-term.
It is more common for sectional rather
than cause groups to be insiders, although
this is not always the case.
 Generally they abide by the ‘rules of the
 Insider groups can be further divided into
two categories:
The first is institutions within the state apparatus
(e.g. Church of England or the police force).
The second category is external groups.
Whilst institutions within the state apparatus are
consulted in the discussion process of
governmental, the same cannot be true of
external groups with insider status
Instead they are independent organisations such
as TU’s, charities or PG’s, which are called upon
by the government to provide expertise when it
is needed.
The type of group selected varies according to
the government’s ideological orientation and
other factors such as public opinion
So, the type of external groups given insider
status varies from government to government.
Grant (1990) on the other hand defined three
types of insider group
‘Prisoner groups’: dependent upon government
support, e.g. third world charities financed
mainly by government
‘Low-profile’: e.g. the Chamber of Shipping,
which works closely with the ministry of defence
‘High-profile’: e.g. the CBI used to be a discreet
behind-the-scenes group, but then chose to
court the media and acquire a higher profile
What does an insider group need
to gain ‘access’?
The compatibility of a group’s objectives with
those of government
Compatibility of group objectives with public
Reliable track record
Possession of powerful sanctions
What are Outsider Groups?
In general, outsider groups have none of
the advantages of insider groups.
 They cannot expect to be consulted during
the policy-making process.
 Nor can they expect to gain access to
ministers and civil servants.
Rather they have to work outside the
governmental decision-making process and,
therefore, have fewer opportunities to determine
the direction of policy.
Lacking formal access to government, these
groups are forced to ‘go public’ in the hope of
exercising indirect influence on the policy
process via media and public campaigns.
Grant (1985) identified three types of
outsider group.
 Outsider groups hoping for a change in
political climate often work closely with the
opposition in Parliament and, generally,
their strategy is to abide by the ‘rules of
the game’ – ‘potential insiders’
Alternatively groups seeking insider status
may be new groups with little experience,
resources and expertise.
 Decision makers might support their aims,
but do not consult them because they are
thought to have little to offer.
There is also a category of outsider group
that does not aim for insider status
because they are ideologically opposed to
the political system – ‘ideological
 By definition, such groups have no interest
in gaining access to governmental
decision makers.
Grant illustrates his typology with the
example of animal welfare groups
 Range from respectable ‘insider’ RSPCA
to the ‘ideological outsider’ Animal
Liberation groups, using threats and
violence to pursue their ends
Grant’s distinction between insider and
outsider groups has been criticised by
Whitely and Winyard because it confuses:
“the two separate dimensions of strategy
and status”
For example some groups can ‘enjoy
close contacts with Whitehall yet ate the
same time make considerable use of the
media and public strategies of protest;
They are insiders in terms of ‘status’, but
outsiders in terms of ‘strategy’
PG’s seek to influence policy and not
control it.
 ‘Insider’ groups which win acceptance by
government have a privileged position.
 Compared to ‘outsider’ groups on the
periphery, which tend to use high profile
techniques which serve to disguise their
lack of real influence.