- The causal flow between public opinion and policy: government responsiveness, leadership, or counter movement?
- West European Politics
- Volume | Issue number
- 35 | 6
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)
This article examines the causal relationship between public opinion and policy. Does opinion affect policy or is it the other way around? Three hypotheses take centre stage. The responsiveness hypothesis postulates that changes in public opinion lead to subsequent changes in policy in the same direction. The leadership hypothesis reverses the causal arrow and states that a change in policy results in a subsequent change in opinion in the same direction. Finally, the counter hypothesis argues that policy change leads to a subsequent change in opinion in the opposite direction. These propositions are tested with time-series data from the United Kingdom from 1973 to 2006. Strong evidence is presented in support of policy responsiveness to public opinion. However, only conditional results were found for the other two hypotheses. Policy pushes public opinion in the same direction for popular incumbents (leadership), but in the opposite direction for unpopular incumbents (counter movement).
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