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How is the will of the people expressed? 1. Through votes cast in an election 2. Through the representatives who are elected 3. Through measures of public.

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Presentation on theme: "How is the will of the people expressed? 1. Through votes cast in an election 2. Through the representatives who are elected 3. Through measures of public."— Presentation transcript:

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2 How is the will of the people expressed? 1. Through votes cast in an election 2. Through the representatives who are elected 3. Through measures of public opinion

3 Edmund Burke, Speech to the Electors of Bristol 3 November 1774 “Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgement; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”

4 Robert A. Dahl, Polyarchy: Participation and Opposition (1971), p.1 ‘a key characteristic of a democracy is the continuing responsiveness of the government to the preferences of its citizens, considered as political equals’

5 UK health care: opinion-policy linkage Source: S B Hobolt & R Klemmemsen, ‘Responsive government? Public opinion and government policy preferences in Britain and Denmark’, Political Studies Vol. 53 (2005), Fig. 5, p. 396

6 Opinion on a given issue (e.g. public spending on defence) is spread along a continuum. In the following example, public preferences on spending are represented by a scale ranging from 0 to 22, with 0 representing zero spending and 22 representing maximum spending Individuals do not envisage a particular level of public spending on the issue, but express a preference for more or less spending Highest approval ratings are gained when government spending policy is closest to the median voter’s position Thermostatic model of opinion-policy relationship I

7 Thermostatic model of opinion-policy relationship II When the government identifies the ‘temperature’ of public opinion – e.g. whether the trend of public opinion supports more spending on a given issue or less – it will change its policy to reflect that ‘temperature’. Public opinion acts as a ‘thermostat’. When the public perceive that policy has moved closer to the median preference, demand for changes in policy will decrease correspondingly If trends in public opinion change (i.e. the ‘temperature’ set by the ‘thermostat’ goes up or down) the government will respond to that change and shift policy again Further reading: Stuart N. Soroka and Christopher Wlezien, ‘Opinion-Policy Dynamics: Public Preferences and Public Expenditure in the United Kingdom’, British Journal of Political Science Vol. 35 (2005), pp

8 Policy continuum L R

9 Low High

10 Policy continuum & normal distribution L R Median voter

11 Thermostatic model of opinion-policy relationship III: Normal distribution of opinion on issue X

12 Thermostatic model of opinion-policy relationship IV: Government policy on issue X overlaid on public opinion at t 1

13 Thermostatic model of opinion-policy relationship V: Government policy on issue X overlaid on public opinion at t 2

14 Thermostatic model of opinion-policy relationship VI: Government policy on issue X overlaid on public opinion at t 3

15 Thermostatic model of opinion-policy relationship VII: Optimal government policy with normal distribution of public opinion

16 Thermostatic model of opinion-policy relationship VIII: Government policy on issue X overlaid on public opinion at t 4

17 Thermostatic model of opinion-policy relationship IX: Government policy realigned to reflect new distribution of public opinion


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