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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

what's the difference between a Senate house and the parliament
Irene Reply
wat is decentralization
Irene Reply
Good question? its another way of emphasizing locality as a first principle value. assumed is self suffiency, sustainability, redundancy in critical systems but most of all it represents an individual citizens liberty; our rights, a dependence from and freedom from centralized power.
Lance
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Irene
it's also assumed that this freedom is critical to our ability and advantages to be resilient. our full capacity to adapt w out any headwinds or yoke from an over reaching central world power as found in empires and dynasties or for example global neoliberalism virus.
Lance
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Richard Reply
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Omohowho
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Official Reply
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Austin
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Irene
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Don
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Shannon
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Shannon
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Luretta
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Emmanuela Reply
the most loyal supporters of democrats are
Paulina Reply
the intent to push polls is to
Ivan Reply
I cannot seem to find a clear answer to why the house is stronger than the senate, and every guess I make the check answer says is wrong.
girunit Reply
What is foreign policy
WONDERS Reply
What is government
WONDERS
What is a supreme court
WONDERS
Who is a solicitor
WONDERS
Three majors the National Liberation council adopted to transfer powers to the civilian government
Boateng
What is bureaucracy
WONDERS Reply

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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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