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Flashcards in Pressure Groups Deck (22)
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 Pressure group

An organised interest group

Members hold similar beliefs and actively pursue ways to influence government

Allow participation in the political process between elections


Types of pressure group

Sectional groups

Causal groups


Sectional groups

Seek to represent their own section within society

eg. profession / race / gender / social characteristic


Causal groups

Campaign for a particular cause or issue


Types of causal groups

Single-interest groups

Policy groups



Functions of pressure groups


Citizen participation

Public education

Agenda building - CD, DVD and computer software companies worked together to get the government to target piracy, resulting in China closing down factories that were illegaly duplicating American goods

Scrutinise government policy - American Civil Liberties Union brought the first legal challenges to Trump's executive order placing a 90-day ban on entry into the US from seven predominantly Muslim countries


Methods used by pressure groups to fulfil their functions

Electioneering and endorsement


Organising grassroots activities


Examples of sectional pressure groups


National Organisation for Women


Example of a single-interest group



Example of a policy group

The Sierra Club


Example of a think-tank

Institute for Policy Studies


Examples of pressure group power

Total federal lobbying revenue in 2016 amounted to over $3.1 billion

NRA's role in 'DC v Heller' ruling


Impact of pressure groups on Congress

Lobby congressmen - Brady Bill (1994)

Lobby congressional committees - Can submit reports to Congress on proposed bill and give evidence to a committee

Organising constituents - January 2016 letter-writing camapign opposing the TPP

Publicising voting records - League of Conservation Voters

Endorsing candidates


Impact of pressure groups on the executive

Seek to maintain strong ties with relevant executive departments and agencies - impact regulatory work 

Able to play a limitless role in Presidential elections campaign through Super PACs

Iron triangles

League of Conservation of Voters - XL Keystone Pipeline


Impact of pressure groups on the judiciary

Take an interest in presidential nominations to the judiciary

Offer 'amicus curiae' briefings, allowing them to present their views to the court (eg. DC v Heller / Snyder v Phelps)

Can bring cases to the Supreme Court - ACLU vs travel ban EO


SC decides which cases it will hear, and only make decisions on the basis of the constitution


Arguments for pressure groups

Provide politicians with useful information

Act as a sounding board for legislators at the policy formulation stage in the legislative process

Bring order to the policy debate, aggregating views and channelling the wishes of the members whom they represent

Broaden the opportunities for political participation

Increase levels of accountability of Congress and the executive branch - scrutiny

Increase opportunity for representation between elections

Enhance freedom of speech and freedom of association


Arguments against pressure groups

Revolving doors - John Boehner joining Squire Patton Boggs

Iron triangles

Inequality of groups

Special interests v the public interest - ethnic pressure groups (eg. AIPAC) accused of splintering US society

Buying political influence ('finest Congress money can buy' - Edward Kennedy)

Using direct action - BLM


Factors determining pressure group success

Size of membership


Strategic position in the political system

Balance of public opinion

Strength of countervailing groups

Attitude of the administration

Ability to access the media


Total federal lobbying revenue in 2016

$3.1 billion


Iron triangle example

Vietnam Veteran's of America

Veteran's Affairs Committees of the House and Senate

The Department of Veterans Affairs


Policy areas where pressure groups have a significant impact

Environmental protection - Sierra Club

Womens rights - EMILY's list

Abortion rights - Lobby the Senate over presidential judicial appointments

Gun control - NRA


Do pressure groups enhance US democracy?

Scrutiny of government vs scutiny process involving money and infair access / revolving doors

Increasing representation (BLM) vs Tryanny of the majority (contrary to a pluralist democracy)

Encouraging participation (eg. Rise and Resist highlighting alleged civil liberties abuses by Trump)