Opinion–Policy Dynamics: Public Preferences and Public Expenditure in the United Kingdom
SOROKA a1 a and CHRISTOPHER
a1 Department of Political Science, McGill University, Philadelphia
a2 Department of Political Science, Temple University, Philadelphia
Work exploring the relationship between public opinion and public policy over time has largely been restricted to the United States. A wider application of this line of research can provide insights into how representation varies across political systems, however. This article takes a first step in this direction using a new body of data on public opinion and government spending in Britain. The results of analyses reveal that the British public appears to notice and respond (thermostatically) to changes in public spending in particular domains, perhaps even more so than in the United States. They also reveal that British policymakers represent these preferences in spending, though the magnitude and structure of this response is less pronounced and more general. The findings are suggestive about the structuring role of institutions.
a Earlier versions were presented at the Annual Meetings of the American Political Science Association, Boston, 2002; The Elections, Public Opinion, and Parties group, Salford, 2002; The Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago, 2003; and the Southwest Political Science Association, Corpus Christi, 2004. Portions of the research were presented at the Conference on Budgetary Policy Change, Nuffield College, Oxford, 2002; the Annual Meetings of the Political Studies Association, Edinburgh, 2002; the American Political Science Association, Philadelphia, 2003; the Juan March Institute, Madrid, 2003, and the Center of European Studies, Harvard University, 2005. We owe a special debt of gratitude to Allan Ritchie, Philippa Todd and Stuart Mitchell at HM Treasury, Russell Hubbard at the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and Robert Bowles, for their assistance in assembling the budgetary data and to the Nuffield Foundation for supporting its collection. We also are grateful to a number of other people for comments, including John Bartle, Frank Baumgartner, Ian Budge, Richard Eichenberg, Diana Evans, Jane Green, David Heald, David Hendry, Brian Hogwood, Peter John, Bryan Jones, Iain McLean, Pippa Norris, Ed Page, Richard Parry, Robert Shapiro, James Stimson, Paul Whiteley, the anonymous reviewers for the Journal, and David Sanders too.