Study Notes

Think Tanks

AS, A Level, IB
AQA, Edexcel, IB

Think tanks are public policy research organisations that seek to influence government policy. 

Key features of think tanks:

  • They are usually identified with particular positions on the political spectrum, such as left, right, green, and liberal.
  • Though some undertake in-depth research into social and economic affairs, the focus is mainly on the political and policy implications.
  • They are not overtly ‘campaigning’ organisations. Their purpose is to influence public policy and public debate rather than directly campaign for policy changes (which is more typical of pressure groups)
  • They use the media and direct contacts with politicians, civil servants and other organisations in the policy community to disseminate their work in an attempt to influence politicians as well as wider public debate.
  • They generally initiate their own work and seek funding for it, rather than working on contract to public or private bodies (though some work may be done on behalf of political parties, or briefings organised covering specific topics).
  • They are generally funded from charitable and corporate sources

The main output of think tanks is the publication of their research and policy work, often accompanied by conferences and seminars. You'll often see pieces from key think tanks published in newspapers and reported on by television and other media.

Examples of think tanks:

"Neutral / Independent" Think Tanks

"Centre-Right-Wing" Think Tanks

"Centre-Left-Wing" Think Tanks

"Liberal" Think Tanks

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