12 Pages
Unlock Document

University of Toronto Scarborough
Political Science
Mc Kinon

PUBLIC OPINION AND POLICY MAKING IN CANADA 19942001 In both government responsiveness and public support the resulting relationship between public opinion and public policy should be the same a tight correlation between the expressed wishes of the public as measured by polls and the decisions of public officials This article attempts to resolve the dilemma of presumed attentiveness to public opinion and the frequent lack of correlation between opinion and policyTheoretical Expectations Regarding the Correlation Between Opinion and Policy Research presumes that public opinion is an autonomous and rational force responding in sensible ways to changes in the political and economic environment that policy makers are responsive to this autonomous force and that it can be fairly accurately measured using polls In Canada there is evidence that when individual opinions are aggregated and tracked over time collective opinion looks far more stable and reasonable than individual responses to survey questions and demonstrates consistent correlations with policy and changes in the environment Policy might diverge with opinion because although elected officials may try to respond to public opinion they do not think that polls accurately represent the real state of public opinion Another argument in support of nonresponsiveness emphasizes the autonomy of the state from public opinion which allows politicians to ignore or deviate from mass preferences and get away with itThe democratic frustration perspective presumes that opinion would correlate with policy if only policy makers were responsive This can be challenged by arguing that correlations between opinion and policy do not provide evidence that policy makers are responsiveBoth government responsiveness and counterfeit consensus perspectives are caricatures of how opinion and policy are actually related Constructivist studies suggest that public opinion does not exist except in the perceptions of decision makers the media and the public itself Under what circumstances are opinion and policy correlated How has the correlation evolved over time Why has consistency declined in recent years To answer these it is useful to know that1 Poll results only measure mass opinion and that they may not be a good indicator of other attributes of public opinion 2 It is good to distinguish between various aspects of mass opinion its existence magnitude intensity 3 Mass opinion is more likely to influence policy if public majorities and government policies follow the same ideological direction on issue than if one takes a left and the other a right directionReviewing the Comparative Evidence A study that is suited to the Canadian case consists of comparing actual government decisions with measures of public opinion on a large number of issues One group of studies looks for opinionpolicy congruence by tracking over time summary measures of mass opinion and policy outputsA second group of studies looks consistency rather than congruenceexamine issues at a single point in time dichotomizing public preferences as supporting either the status quo or change and examining subsequent policy outputs to see if govts decisions are consistent with mass opinion One advantage that the congruence approach has is that it can tell us whether shifts in mass opinion occur prior to changes in government policy or not The Study Record government policies in a similar dichotonomous fashion on the same issues The objective was to classify policy outcomes as having resulted in the policy change implied by the survey or as maintaining the status quo within a 12month period following the date of the survey Conclusion The analysis shows that lower responsiveness during the government of Jean Chretien cannot be attributed to methodological reasons alone It is also associated with an increased bias against change in policy making as compared with the Mulroney government The data suggests that the Chreteien government was significantly less responsive when mass opinion favoured a change of policy than when it supported already existing policy There was no bias with Mulroney government as they deferred to mass opinion more often when the public favoured policy changeAnother explanation for the observed variation in consistency is ideology The Chreteien government appears to have been especially unresponsive on issues that were favoured by opposition parties supporters A related explanation as to why Canadians keep reelecting the Liberals despite the government lack of responsiveness is that their assessment of government performance on high profile issues at election time is disconnected from their opinion of the daytoday low profile decisions of the Chretien government
More Less

Related notes for POLB50Y3

Log In


Don't have an account?

Join OneClass

Access over 10 million pages of study
documents for 1.3 million courses.

Sign up

Join to view


By registering, I agree to the Terms and Privacy Policies
Already have an account?
Just a few more details

So we can recommend you notes for your school.

Reset Password

Please enter below the email address you registered with and we will send you a link to reset your password.

Add your courses

Get notes from the top students in your class.