Promotional pressure groups endeavour to promote a particular cause, and for this reason are sometimes called ‘cause’ groups. Promotional pressure groups are not self-interested in that the achievement of their objectives is not necessarily of direct professional or economic benefit to the members of the group. Examples of promotional/cause pressure groups are Shelter, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and Greenpeace.

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Because cause groups aim to promote a cause – which might potentially be supported by everybody, regardless of their profession or economic position – membership is not usually restricted. However, that does mean that cause groups have or want to have a large membership. Some cause groups have few members but a great deal of influence. For example, Liberty – a group with 5,000 members – put pressure on the Labour Party, in opposition and in government, to make the incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law a priority. On the other hand, some cause groups have many members but little influence. For example, in the early 1980s over 250,000 supporters of CND marched in London on several occasions. Despite this show of popular support, CND failed to influence the government’s defence policy.

Cause groups can be subdivided according to the aims they pursue. Sectional cause groups aim to protect the interests of a section of society. Attitude cause groups aim to change people’s attitudes about a particular issue or policy.

In ‘Pressure Groups, Politics and Democracy in Britain’ (Philip Allan, 1989), Wyn Grant – a political scientist – established a classification of pressure groups based on their status and methods rather than their aims. He called them insider and outsider groups.

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