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date: 11 April 2021

Abstract and Keywords

The relationship between public policy and public opinion in the United States is important and much studied. It is important and studied because public policy corresponds to what the public desires. However, there are several problems affecting the nature and the extent of the profession's knowledge in this area. One problem is how to evaluate and measure public opinion on certain public policy issues. A more difficult problem is that there are various intervening variables between policy results and public opinion. Interest groups represent labor, business, and the public to the policy makers, and political parties aggregate over these interest groups to collect funds, arrange elections, sort preferences, and nominate candidates who run for office on issues concerning public policy. Furthermore, the nature of the American elections, with gerrymandered districts, shapes the relationship between opinion and policy. This article discusses the nature of the relationship between public policy and public opinion in the U.S. Congress. The article begins by evaluating the general relationship between policy and opinion through studies of Stimson, Erickson, MacKuen, and Wright. It then discusses problems in determining the effect of intervening elites and institutions on the relationship between opinion and policy. The last section discusses black-box intervening variables and assesses the relationship between policy and opinion via studies which employed technical changes and ideal point estimation.

Keywords: public policy, public opinion, opinion, policy, policy makers, black-box intervening variables, interest groups

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