Effects of Public Opinion on Policy

Benjamin I. Page, Robert Y. Shapiro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1123 Scopus citations


The responsiveness of government policies to citizens’ preferences is a central concern of various normative and empirical theories of democracy. Examining public opinion and policy data for the United States from 1935 to 1979, we find considerable congruence between changes in preferences and in policies, especially for large, stable opinion changes on salient issues. We present evidence that pubic opinion is often a proximate cause of policy, affecting policy more than policy influences opinion. One should be cautious, however, about concluding that democratic responsiveness pervades American politics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)175-190
Number of pages16
JournalAmerican Political Science Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1983

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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