Pressure Group Success File

Pressure Group
How do we judge
• Pressure groups usually have clearly stated goals
• Success can be measured against such goals
• But some pressure group aims are long-term, and
thus unrealisable in short-term (eg Greenpeace),
while others have more easily achievable short-term
aims (the Gurkha campaign)
• An objective measure of group success might be
based on levels of profile achieved, or the impact
of education campaigns aimed at gradually
changing perceptions (Friends of the Earth on
climate change)
Factors Affecting Pressure
Group Success
Practical Achievability
• Groups with time-limited and practically achievable
aims are likely to have more success than those with
long-term, more amorphous goals
• Make Poverty History, for example, has an openended, expensive and global set of aims unlikely to
be achieved in the short-term
• Part of their measured success might be the levels
of changed consciousness, or gradualist changes in
• The Gurkha Justice Campaign, on the other hand,
had an achievable short-term aim
Gurkha Justice Campaign
• Aim: to gain the right to live in the UK for all Gurkhas
who served in the British army prior to 1997
• Numbers affected: between 10,000 and 15,000
former Gurkhas
• Financial impact: between £660 and £700 per new
• Result: Parties in Parliament agreed to pass
legislation securing the right to residency for aforementioned Gurkhas
Factors Affecting Pressure
Group Success
Receptivity/Public Opinion
• Groups ‘pushing at an open door’ will generally
fare better than those ‘swimming against the tide’
• Celebrity endorsement also helps to warm the
public to an idea
• Jamie Oliver’s ‘Feed Me Better’ campaign aimed to
improve quality of school dinners
• Celebrity endorsement and public support led to
specific changes being made regarding school
• On the other hand, the National Association for the
Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NACRO) has
less favourable public support
Factors Affecting Pressure
Group Success
Changing political circumstances
• Friends of the Earth campaigned for use of greater
renewable energy in the early 1970s and struggled to
make headway in their campaign
• Advances in technology and changing attitudes made
their case more compelling by the 21st century
• Campaigners for gay rights failed to stop the Thatcher
government’s Section 28 act
• They only started to make headway when Tony Blair’s
government was in power, which accompanied a
broader change in attitudes
• This was further helped by media and cultural attitudes
Factors Affecting Pressure
Group Success
Human Resources
• Groups with large memberships often have greater
apparent legitimacy (RSPB is active in and consulted
about conservation issues)
• Unions have traditionally benefited from large
• Large memberships also bring greater funding via
• Professional groups (BMA) benefit from the perceived
expertise of their members – although BMA failed to stop
NHS changes, and the Bar Association failed to stop
legal aid changes
• Other groups may benefit from specific skill sets offered
by members – fund-raising, marketing, legal expertise
Factors Affecting Pressure
Group Success
• Middle-class groups (argues Wyn Grant) have
greater success due to their articulate and welleducated memberships
Factors Affecting Pressure
Group Success
Material Resources
• Money is the obvious asset – even small groups with
generous funds (Taxpayer’s Alliance) can make a
significant impact
• Other assets can help – office space, web servers
Factors Affecting Pressure
Group Success
Group Status
• Insider groups benefit from regular consultation and
access to government ministers
• They may be involved in drafting legislation
• Groups with financial, business or political leverage
have a greater advantage – eg CBI
• Groups with specialisms often gain insider status
(Howard League, Liberty)
Factors Affecting Pressure
Group Success
Group Methods
• Groups employing a variety of methods can have
greater success – such as lobbying ministers, using
social media and the internet to generate support
(38 Degrees), letter writing campaigns (Amnesty)
• More extreme methods can alienate support – the
Animal Liberation Front is rejected even by many
animal rights supporters as being too militant
• Mass marches can generate media attention, but
not always change government minds (Countryside
Alliance failed to stop ban on fox-hunting; their
more effective work was done through utilising
supporters in the Lords to water down the bill)
• Insider groups can be said to have a greater
chance of success than outsider groups
• Material resources, notably funding, is normally
hugely beneficial
• A high media profile does not always guarantee
• Groups with easier aims will have greater success
than longer-term, more complex groups
• The climate of public opinion is often crucial
• There is no set formula for success!

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