Peter Bjerre Mortensen

The Impact of Public Opinion on Public Policy: A Study of Why, When, and How Agenda Setting Matters

This book offers a model of political responsiveness to voter attitudes by applying ideas from the literature on agenda setting to the classic study of the impact of public opinion on public policy. The main argument is that political responsiveness to voter attitudes is contingent upon the issue's importance on the macro-political agenda. Looking at public spending attitudes and public spending decisions on seven Danish policy issues from 1980 to 2003 in a set of multivariate time-series regressions, the empirical analysis generally supports the theoretical model. When an issue gains increasing importance on the macro-political agenda, public spending on that issue tends to adjust in the direction preferred by a majority of the electorate. The demonstration of a clear empirical link between agenda dynamics and political responsiveness has important implications for various classic and modern political science theories, including theories of democratic responsiveness, agenda setting, and public spending.

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