Introduction: the key characteristics of pressure groups
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Every four years or so the majority of British electors go to schools, village halls, and a variety of other polling stations throughout the country to cast their votes in a general election. In between the four-year intervals, a minority of voters exercise their right to vote in local and European elections. For most electors, voting is their main point of contact with the democratic process. Only a small and declining minority are members of political parties. More people are members of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) than of the Labour Party. The majority of the electorate are, however, increasingly disengaged from the political process and, indeed, cynical about its workings and the likelihood of securing change. Even among the middle-class section of the population, only a minority are politically active. On a weekend, a typical middle-class person might visit a shopping mall and a garden centre; play tennis or squash; watch a video; enjoy a takeaway meal; and carry out minor repairs in the home. He or she is much less likely to engage in any form of political activity.
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