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Pressure Groups (Politics A Level): Think Tanks

undefinedThink Tanks

"Policy research institutions of two kinds:

1. Organizations which seek to assist in the strategic coordination of government policies, establish relative priorities, offer new policy choices, and ensure that the implications of policy options are fully considered....

2. Organizations of an explicitly partisan interest that seek to offer policy advice to chosen recipients...."

Bradbury, J. (2018). Think-tanks. In A Concise Oxford Dictionary of Politics and International Relations. : Oxford University Press. Retrieved 11 Apr. 2020, from https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780199670840.001.0001/acref-9780199670840-e-1376 .

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Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

How to use this page

The resources on this page have been carefully selected to help you with your investigation, while you may choose to look at other resources there is no need to, and you should certainly start with these. The resources are divided into:

  • Specific resources for named groups (IFS, Taxpayers' Alliance, Resolution Foundation). You may want to start here to gather some basic information on your individual group.
  • Resources for Think Tanks in general. These resources are specifically about Think Tanks and will be useful for developing your argument about the extent to which Think Tanks have a positive or negative influence and how you might like this to change.
  • General resources. These resources apply to all four categories of group, and will help you to think about how the different categories of pressure group fit together and what the role of Think Tanks is within this. There are two very good Politics Review articles in this section that are worth reading.

The Planning your article box to the right is identical to the one on The Orwell Youth Prize (OYP) page, and contains the Investigative Journal and Research Organiser that you will need to fill in as you do your investigation and plan your article. Make sure you refer back to the advice on the Orwell Youth Prize (OYP) page before you start to write your article.

Specific resources for named groups

IFSThe IFS' own website is a good source of factual information about features such as goals, funding, structure and methods. Clearly there will be an element of bias so it must be used in conjunction with other sources when forming judgements and opinions. Make sure you explore the links at the top of the page to find out what the IFS says about its own successes.

References: IFS. (2020). About the IFS. Retrieved from Institute for Fiscal Studies: https://www.ifs.org.uk/about


Talk about IFSWe need to talk about the Institute for Fiscal Studies (openDemocracy, 2019)

openDemocracy describes itself as an "independent global media organisation ...[that seeks] to educate citizens to challenge power and encourage democratic debate across the world." It is described as a left-centre source rated high for factual reporting by mediabiasfactcheck.com.

Reference: Weeks, J. (2019, November 22). We need to talk about the Institute for Fiscal Studies. Retrieved from openDemocracy: https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/oureconomy/we-need-talk-about-institute-fiscal-studies/


undefinedReality Check: Why should we trust the IFS? (BBC, 2015)

The BBC is a left-centre source rated high for factual reporting by mediabiasfactcheck.com.

 

Reference: Chrispin, S. (2015, April 23). Reality Check: Why should we trust the IFS? Retrieved from BBC News: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-2015-32433408

TPA logo

The TPA's own website is a good source of  information about the goals and successes of the orgainsation, but the TPA is notoriously secretive about its funding (see Who funds you? and Transparify articles in Resources for Think Tanks in general box below). Clearly there will be an element of bias so it must be used in conjunction with other sources when forming judgements and opinions. Make sure you explore the links at the top of the page to find out what the TPA says about its own successes.

References: TPA. (2020). Our history. Retrieved from taxpayersalliance.com: https://www.taxpayersalliance.com/our_history


undefinedTaxpayers' Alliance received over £223k in foreign donations (Guardian, 2018)

The Guardian is a left-centre source rated high for factual reporting by mediabiasfactcheck.com.

Reference: Evans, R., Pegg, D., & Lawrence, F. (2018, November 20). Taxpayers' Alliance received over £223k in foreign donations. Retrieved from The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/nov/20/taxpayers-alliance-received-hundreds-of-thousands-in-foreign-donations


undefinedRevealed: how the UK’s powerful right-wing think tanks and Conservative MPs work together (openDemocracy, 2018)

openDemocracy describes itself as an "independent global media organisation ...[that seeks] to educate citizens to challenge power and encourage democratic debate across the world." It is described as a left-centre source rated high for factual reporting by mediabiasfactcheck.com.

Reference: Ramsay, A., & Geoghegan, P. (2018, July 13). Revealed: how the UK’s powerful right-wing think tanks and Conservative MPs work together. Retrieved from openDemocracy: https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/dark-money-investigations/revealed-how-uk-s-powerful-right-wing-think-tanks-and-conse/

Resolution Foundation logoThe Resolution Foundation's own website is a good source of factual information about features such as goals, funding, structure and methods. Clearly there will be an element of bias so it must be used in conjunction with other sources when forming judgements and opinions. Make sure you explore the links at the top and side of the page to find out what the Resolution Foundation says about its own successes.

References: Resolution Foundation. (2020). About us: our mission. Retrieved from resolutionfoundation.org: https://www.resolutionfoundation.org/about-us/mission/

Clive CowderyClive Cowdery donates £50m to research living standards (Financial Times, 2015)

**You may need to log in to Access Global NewsBank using the details provided on the Subscription Databases page before clicking this link, particularly if you are not on the school network.**

The Financial Times is rated "Least Biased based on balanced reporting and High for factual reporting due to proper sourcing and a clean fact check" by Mediabiasfactcheck.org.

Although this article is 5 years old it provides important background information on the origins of the Resolution Foundation.

Reference: Neville, S. (2015, April 30) Clive Cowdery donates £50m to research living standards. Retrieved from The Financial Times: https://www.ft.com/content/3abfe1fc-eaab-11e4-96ec-00144feab7de


Ed MillibandEd Miliband's former head of policy appointed director of living standards think tank (Independent, 2015)

Media Bias/ Fact Check rates The Indepenent "Left-Center Biased due to story selection that moderately favors the left and High for factual reporting based on proper sourcing of information and a reasonable fact check record".

This article is also 5 years old, but the appointment of Torsten Bell is an important moment for the Resolution Foundation (he is still the Chief Executive).

Reference: Grice, A. (2015, September 4). Ed Miliband's former head of policy appointed director of living standards think tank. Retrieved from The Independent: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/ed-milibands-former-head-of-policy-appointed-director-of-living-standards-think-tank-10486924.html


It is actually quite difficult to find current commentary on the Resolution Foundation itself, because most news stories focus on the reports it produces not the organisation. The only organisations I could see providing consistent criticism tended to be right-wing organisations with unreliable fact-checking records (such as the Daily Mail). This in itself tells us something about the reputation of the organisation. [Comment from Mrs Toerien]

Resources for Think Tanks in general

undefinedUK Think Tanks and campaigns rated for funding transparency (Who funds you?, 2019)

The work of Who funds you? is generally well-respected by news outlets with good reputations (among others). Its stated purpose is to "promote... funding transparency among think tanks and political campaigns with a strong public policy or research focus".

Reference: Who funds you? (2019). UK Think Tanks and campaigns rated for funding transparency . Retrieved from Who funds you?: http://whofundsyou.org/

 


Think tanks in the UK in 2017Think Tanks in the UK 2017:Transparency,Lobbying and Fake News in Brexit Britain (Transparify, 2017)

"Transparify provides the first-ever global rating of the financial transparency of major think tanks" (self-describes). Transparify is a well-respected source. Of our named groups, this document only mentions The Institute for Fiscal studies, but is a good source of information on the general funding of Think Tanks. Note that this source is three years old.

Reference: Transparify. (2017). Think Tanks in the UK 2017: Transparency, Lobbying and Fake News in Brexit Britain. Retrieved from https://static1.squarespace.com/static/52e1f399e4b06a94c0cdaa41/t/58996330b8a79b6ede1c9891/1486447414103/Transparify+-++Think+Tank+Transparency+in+the+UK+2017.pdf


LSEThink tanks, evidence and policy: democratic players or clandestine lobbyists? (LSE, 2017)

This is an opinion piece on the London School of Economics blog by Till Buckner, the advocacy manager for Transparify (among many other things). Although it is an opinion piece, Bruckner has a great deal of experience in the field and the LSE is a reputable organisation.

Reference: Buckner, T. (2017, February 8). Think tanks, evidence and policy: democratic players or clandestine lobbyists? Retrieved from LSE Blog: https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2017/02/08/think-tanks-evidence-and-policy/


BBC videoThink tanks: Who are they and who funds them? (BBC, 2019) [VIDEO, 5 minutes]

The BBC is a left-centre source rated high for factual reporting by mediabiasfactcheck.com.

This short clip is interesting for Think Tanks in general, but particularly good for the Taxpayers Alliance.

Reference: Glinka, E. (2019, February 20). Think tanks: Who are they and who funds them? [Video file]. Retrieved from: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-politics-47297942/think-tanks-who-are-they-and-who-funds-them


Cigarette packagingThe truth about lobbying: 10 ways big business controls government (Guardian, 2014)

The Guardian is a left-centre source rated high for factual reporting by mediabiasfactcheck.com.

This article is six years old, but gives a helpful 10-step breakdown of how lobbying works. Step 5 is "Sponsor a Think Tank".

Reference: Cave, T. & Rowell, A. (2014, March 12). The truth about lobbying: 10 ways big business controls government. Retrieved from The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/mar/12/lobbying-10-ways-corprations-influence-government


undefinedOpinion: Is public policy trapped in think tanks? (Civil Service World, 2019)

An opinion piece by two researchers from the University of Cambridge in a reputable Civil Service magazine.

Includes a very interesting table showing the funding and the political leaning of a large number of Think Tanks.

Reference: Talbot, C. & Talbot, C. (2019, August 13). Opinion: Is public policy trapped in think tanks? Retrieved from Civil Service World: https://www.civilserviceworld.com/articles/opinion/opinion-public-policy-trapped-think-tanks

ComRes presentationThink Tanks: Impartiality and influence (ComRes, 2018)

Savanta ComRes is a UK communications research firm that supports "reputation management, public policy and communications". Its polling data is often used by major reputable new organisations and it should generally be regarded as reputable, as long as attention is paid to who commissioned a poll. This research, into the views MPs have about named Think Tanks is aimed at helping "think tanks understand and manage their political reputation" (p.2). It is mostly bar charts and is useful for understanding the political leanings of particular pressure groups.

Reference: ComRes (2018, February) Think Tanks: Impartiality and influence. Retrieved from Savanta ComRes: https://www.comresglobal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Think-Tanks-Political-Perception-Research-2018.pdf


undefinedWhat are Think Tanks Good for? (United Nations University, 2015)

The United Nations University is "a global think tank and postgraduate teaching organisation headquartered in Japan", established by the United Nations in 1972. It should be regarded as a reputable source. This source is extension reading, both because it is 5 years old and because it has a global not British perspective. However, for those with a broader interest in Politics, the global context matters.

Reference: de Boer, J. (2015, March 17). What are Think Tanks good for? Retrieved from United Nations University Centre for Policy Studies: https://cpr.unu.edu/what-are-think-tanks-good-for.html

 

General resources


undefinedPressure Groups: Do they strengthen pluralist democracy? (Politics Review, 2015)

This article has case studies of the CBI and 38 degrees specifically, but is also a good general discussion of pressure groups and democracy.

Politics Review is a magazine aimed at A-Level students, usually accessed through our Subscription Databases page. It should be regarded as a reliable source. Note that this article is more than 5 years old.

Reference: Rathbone, M. (2015, November). Pressure groups: Do they strengthen pluralist democracy? Politics Review, 25(2), pp. 2-5.


Politics ReviewUK pressure groups and democracy (Politics Review, 2019)

Politics Review is a magazine aimed at A-Level students, usually accessed through our Subscription Databases page. It should be regarded as a reliable source.

Reference: Tomes, A. (2019, April). UK pressure groups and democracy. Politics Review, 28(4), pp. 6-9.

 

 


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The UK's changing democracy (Democratic Audit, 2018)

This is a long report, but you only need to look at the chapter on The Interest Group Process (pages 112-121). You could also search within the publication (using the shortcut "ctrl+F" as usual) for particular phrases such as Think Tank, Trade Union or Lobbyists. This document is least relevant for Cyberactivist groups.

Democratic Audit describes itself as "an independent research organisation based at the London School of Economics.", having moved there from the University of Essex. It is funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust. Its attachment to a well-respected University gives it credibility and it has a generally good reputation online with other credible organisations.

Reference: Dunleavy, P., Park, A. and Taylor, R. (eds) (2018) The UK's Changing Democracy: The 2018 Democratic Audit. London: LSE Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.31389/book1

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