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Process Preferences and American Politics: What the People Want Government to Be

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 April 2002

John R. Hibbing
John R. Hibbing ( is Professor of Political Science and Elizabeth Theiss-Morse ( is Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE 68588-0328,,


We present evidence of the kind of governmental processes Americans would like to see in Washington. People believe they have been excluded from current processes, but they do not want direct democracy. The extent to which individuals believe actual processes are inconsistent with their own process preferences is an important variable in understanding the current public mood. Moreover, individual-level differences in level of dissatisfaction with democratic processes help explain variations in public approval of government and in willingness to comply with the outputs of government. Of course, many political attitudes and behaviors are influenced by fondness for the policies that government produces, but it is also the case that sentiments and actions are affected by the way government produces those policies. Far from being merely a means to a policy end, governmental process is important in its own right.

Research Article
2001 by the American Political Science Association

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