Public Opinion and policy

Topics: Opinion poll, Politics, Liberalism Pages: 11 (3040 words) Published: April 20, 2014
In Public Opinion: Democratic Ideals, Democratic Practice, Rosalee Clawson and Zoe Oxley interpret public opinion as an individual’s beliefs and preferences in regards to all governmental matters and policies.(424) These individual ideas collectively are viewed as the overall populations opinions summarized and can be reflected by a poll. By collecting these opinions through the polling process, lawmakers are likely to take these opinions into consideration when creating and/or regulating a policy. In 1824 The Harrisburg Pennsylvanian newspaper conducted one such poll where the readers were asked to return a postcard with their opinion about the presidential candidates; Andrew Jackson or John Quincy Adams. Jackson won the poll as well as the eventual election.(Franklin) This style of opinion polling has increased over the years and evolved into a more refined and accurate representation of the public. For instance, instead of submitting an untraceable, anonymous postcard, people are instead asked to submit a survey and are required to submit some personal information, which will remain anonymous, in order to prevent the chance of someone submitting more than one survey. Due to the availability of the telephones and the internet, we are able to survey a larger and more diverse group of citizens which will allow for more accurate results. As voters, we are able to have some control over who represents our opinions as well as who we believe will make decisions that are truly for the betterment of the people and society. By understanding the five linkage models established by Norman Luttbeg (Robert & Kent, 20-21) we are able to see how public opinion can sway the formulation of a public policy. 1. The Rational-Activist Model assumes that all voting citizens are level-headed, informed, involved and politically active individuals. This model presents the idea that if representatives do not make decisions to satisfy the demands of the people, then the people will replace that representative. This model is the least likely to be apparent since the majority of the public does not keep close tabs on political actions. The largest flaw with this model is that we are assuming all voters are educated and rational about a particular issue and/or candidate. 2. The Political Parties Model takes place when an individual has an overall agreement with the ideals of an individual party. Citizens identify with a party whose overall attitude and beliefs mesh with their own. A major flaw within this model is the idea that representatives feel pressured to take actions that are for the betterment of the party but not always for the individual citizen. 3. The Interest Groups Model establishes that the public can express their opinions to lawmakers by forming a group who will advocate for a collective cause. The groups place pressure on the lawmakers and parties electorally by rallying behind those that will publicly promote them. As well as monetarily by donating funds to those individuals and/or parties. By understanding this particular model we are able to see the likelihood of one group being more represented than another in society. This would create strife among the people as the group who is the least wealthy would be more likely to be underrepresented even though that group could contain a more accurate representation of the overall public opinion. 4. The Delegate Model maintains that a representative is elected based on the candidates values but not necessarily their stance on the issues. This model varies from the Rational Activist model in that it places more responsibility on the candidate to follow the opinions of the constituency or face being replaced and not place the responsibility on the public to educate themselves. While the Delegate Model and the Rational Activist Model are very similar the key difference is in noting that this model places more pressure on a candidate to follow their constituency’s ideas even if the...

Bibliography: Robert S. Erikson and Kent L. Tedin, American Public Opinion, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc., 2011
Rosalee A
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