- pressure groups
Pressure groups work on behalf of a particular section of society, e.g. children or nurses, or for a particular issue or cause, e.g. banning the use of landmines. Groups that work on behalf of a section of society are sometimes called interest groups. Those that work for a particular cause are known as promotional groups or simply pressure groups. These pressure groups operate in a similar way in Britain and in the US.There are several types of interest groups. Trade unions and labor unions represent workers in industry and are mostly concerned with their wages and welfare. Professional bodies such as the British Medical Association are similar to trade unions. In Britain several watchdogs have been established by Act of Parliament to monitor (= check the performance of) certain industries, e.g. Ofgem, which oversees the gas and electricity industries on behalf of users. Many promotional groups are linked to charities. Since charities are not allowed to take part in party political activity, many set up a related organization to act as a pressure group. In the US many pressure groups form political action committees which are allowed to give money to political campaigns. Well-known promotional groups include Friends of the Earth and Amnesty International. There are also many smaller groups, usually less permanent, which are formed to protest about local issues.Pressure groups aim to influence the government to the benefit of their members or the cause they support. They may draw attention to problems by asking people to sign a petition (= a formal request signed by many people), by giving media interviews, or by organizing demonstrations that will attract public and media attention. Many groups try to get the support of well-known people such as pop stars. They also try to persuade politicians to support their cause and to speak about it in Parliament or Congress, a practice known as lobbying. More established pressure groups may be consulted by a government department or take part in working groups when changes to the law are being considered.
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