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Learning objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Explain the circumstances that lead to public opinion affecting policy
  • Compare the effects of public opinion on government branches and figures
  • Identify situations that cause conflicts in public opinion

Public opinion polling is prevalent even outside election season. Are politicians and leaders listening to these polls, or is there some other reason for them? Some believe the increased collection of public opinion is due to growing support of delegate representation. The theory of delegate representation    assumes the politician is in office to be the voice of the people.

Donald Mccrone, and James Kuklinski. 1979. “The Delegate Theory of Representation.” American Journal of Political Science 23 (2): 278–300.
If voters want the legislator to vote for legalizing marijuana, for example, the legislator should vote to legalize marijuana. Legislators or candidates who believe in delegate representation may poll the public before an important vote comes up for debate in order to learn what the public desires them to do.

Others believe polling has increased because politicians, like the president, operate in permanent campaign mode. To continue contributing money, supporters must remain happy and convinced the politician is listening to them. Even if the elected official does not act in a manner consistent with the polls, he or she can mollify everyone by explaining the reasons behind the vote.

Norman Ornstein, and Thomas Mann, eds. 2000. The Permanent Campaign and Its Future . Washington: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research and the Brookings Institution.

Regardless of why the polls are taken, studies have not clearly shown whether the branches of government consistently act on them. Some branches appear to pay closer attention to public opinion than other branches, but events, time periods, and politics may change the way an individual or a branch of government ultimately reacts.

Public opinion and elections

Elections are the events on which opinion polls have the greatest measured effect. Public opinion polls do more than show how we feel on issues or project who might win an election. The media use public opinion polls to decide which candidates are ahead of the others and therefore of interest to voters and worthy of interview. From the moment President Obama was inaugurated for his second term, speculation began about who would run in the 2016 presidential election. Within a year, potential candidates were being ranked and compared by a number of newspapers.

Paul Hitlin. 2013. “The 2016 Presidential Media Primary Is Off to a Fast Start.” Pew Research Center . October 3, 2013. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/10/03/the-2016-presidential-media-primary-is-off-to-a-fast-start/ (February 18, 2016).
The speculation included favorability poll     s on Hillary Clinton , which measured how positively voters felt about her as a candidate. The media deemed these polls important because they showed Clinton as the frontrunner for the Democrats in the next election.
Pew Research Center, 2015. “Hillary Clinton’s Favorability Ratings over Her Career.” Pew Research Center . June 6, 2015. http://www.pewresearch.org/wp-content/themes/pewresearch/static/hillary-clintons-favorability-ratings-over-her-career/ (February 18, 2016).

Questions & Answers

In which areas do you think peoples rights and liberties are at risk of government intrusion?
camille Reply
whenever......new government
Marjan Reply
clearly,who was meant to be in charge of this new government?
Marjan
What is and who is required to file a foreign agent registration statement form
David Reply
Anything on the Mayflower Compact
deborah Reply
What do you really mean by the final draft of articles
Eliza Reply
According to pluralist theory of government
Rachel Reply
Pluralist theory stating what?
Kalu
Meaning
Eliza
What is government mean?
Benedict Reply
compare and contrast a federalist system of govt to a confederate system
Jewles Reply
how does one separate from State or government
Joni Reply
I do Not understand well, so if the abachis want. To seperate, acording to this declaration every one shoud Support them
Ich Reply
what is liberty
Luna Reply
You feel free and you decide and do and achieve the right for you
Ich
was the Bill of rights a necessary addtion to the constitution?
noor Reply
So, if I'm clear a member of the Congress CANNOT live in the state they represent?
Jeremy Reply
what is government
Seth Reply
why is today's government so corrupt?
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Source:  OpenStax, American government. OpenStax CNX. Dec 05, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11995/1.15
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