The Effects of 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.

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