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Between one election and the next, members of Congress introduce thousands of bills. What determines which become law? Is it the public? Do we have government “of the people, by the people, for the people?” Or is it those who have the resources to organize and pressure government who get what they want? In the first study ever of a random sample of policy proposals, Paul Burstein finds that the public can get what it wants – but mainly on the few issues that attract its attention. Does this mean organized interests get what they want? Not necessarily – on most issues there is so little political activity that it hardly matters. Politics may be less of a battle between the public and organized interests than a struggle for attention. American society is so much more complex than it was when the Constitution was written that we may need to reconsider what it means, in fact, to be a democracy.Read more
- The first book to examine a random sample of policy proposals addressed by Congress, and so can generalize about congressional action in a way no other book can
- Shows that Congress is not responsive to public opinion on most issues - not because the public loses out to special interests, but because on most issues the public has no opinions
- Searches much more widely than others for evidence of publicly reported attempts to influence Congress - and finds that on most issues there is almost no political activity at all
Reviews & endorsements
"Paul Burstein’s book makes (at least) two significant contributions to the burgeoning literature on public opinion and public policy. First, while work on opinion-policy links tends to focus only on salient policy domains, Burstein argues that we can get a more accurate view of the opinion-policy connection by looking at a representative sample of policies, salient or not. Second, [he] examines not just the direct effect of public opinion, but the impact that opinion may have through advocacy. In each case, [he] adds to what we know about political representation and policy making."
Stuart Soroka, McGill UniversitySee more reviews
"Paul Burstein adopts a novel approach that involves defining and measuring the ‘policy proposal’ and then sampling randomly among the proposals - that is, he does not let public opinion pollsters or interest groups or his own judgment define which he examines. Having sampled policy proposals, he analyzes the effects of public opinion and, especially, interest group advocacy on the advancement of proposals. The results are powerful - solidifying the growing understanding that public opinion does not influence policy on all issues (and does not do so completely even where it does) and providing a strong challenge to conventional wisdom, both public and academic, about the role of interest groups in American politics."
Christopher Wlezien, Hogg Professor of Government, University of Texas, Austin
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- Date Published: January 2014
- format: Paperback
- isbn: 9781107684256
- dimensions: 216 x 138 mm
- contains: 1 b/w illus. 22 tables
- availability: In stock
Table of Contents
2. Policy change
3. Public opinion
4. Advocacy: how Americans try to influence Congress
5. The impact of advocacy on congressional action
6. Advocacy, information, and policy innovation
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