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How Are Policymakers Influenced by What the Public Wants? An Experimental Study of the Effect of Public Opinion on Elite Preferences and Behavior.

For a democracy to function well—it is often argued—representatives must listen to the people who elected them. More specifically, policy should represent citizens' preferences. A core task of political scientists is to examine whether this democratic assumption is met in reality. This project aims to contribute to the large body of scientific work on policy representation in three particular ways. First, it scrutinizes the causal effect of public opinion on political elites. A lot of research demonstrates that policy decisions and public opinion are associated. However, we lack strong evidence that this association results from elites' effort to act in a responsive way. Second, the project unravels the mechanisms underlying this representational process, which have largely remained unobserved. Extant research has theorized about why elites adapt their behavior—and even their own preferences—to public opinion, but these mechanisms have not been empirically tested. Finally, this project innovates methodologically. It uses survey-embedded experiments and in-depth interviews with political elites to study policy representation. Experiments guarantee researcher control, and are therefore well-suited to establish causality and tease out the mechanisms that drive the influence of public opinion on political elites. In-depth interviews help to interpret the findings and put them into context.
Date:1 Oct 2017  →  30 Sep 2020
Disciplines:Other economics and business, Citizenship, immigration and political inequality, International and compartive politics, Multilevel governance, National politics, Political behaviour, Political organisations and institutions, Political theory and methodology, Public administration, Other political science, Communication sciences, Journalism and professional writing, Media studies, Other media and communications