To what extent are the largest pressure groups the most successful ones?
Some pressure groups are more powerful than others as some succeed while others fail. Success in pressure groups is defined by how they affect government policy, their agenda-setting power and how well they can change people’s ideologies.
Large groups mean that they have more members. This in turn leads to more donations. Chequebook groups tend to get most of their finance from their members, for example Greenpeace get 90% of their income from their members. This means that large groups tend to be wealthy.
Being a wealthy group means that they have financial and economic power. For example, major corporations such as are the main source of employment and investment in the economy so the government will seek their cooperation. For wealthy groups that aren’t business groups will possess financial strength to employ professional lobbyists and public relations consultants.
However, it is the wealth not the size of the pressure group that makes them economically powerful and the biggest pressure groups are not always the most economically powerful. The CBI is more economically powerful than TUC despite the TUC having seven million members. This is because although some groups may be small, they can exert influence through their policy expertise and specialist knowledge.
Another good part of being a large group is that they can claim to represent public opinion. NSPCC is an example of this as they ensure that their membership levels stay above one million. This means that governments are most likely to listen to them because their members can have an electoral impact.
However having good leadership can be a more direct form of influence than having many members. Having a high profile leader, such as Peter Tatchell of OutRage!, can help as they have some political skills, political contacts and have developed media and presentational skills.
Lastly, the government’s views are a very important part. A group may very well be large and wealthy, however if the government doesn’t sympathise with their aims, then it will be very difficult for them to influence policy. For example, Greenpeace are very large and wealthy but the government rarely listen to them.
In conclusion, there are different factors that determine how successful a pressure group is. However, large groups tend to have a significant amount of wealth, so whether it is the size of the group or other factors that should be accredited to its success can be argued.