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Policy accommodation versus electoral turnover: policy representation in Britain, 1945–2015

  • John Bartle (a1), Sebastian Dellepiane Avellaneda (a2) and Anthony McGann (a3)
Abstract

Does public policy in the United Kingdom respond to changes in public preferences? If so, is this the result of the government changing its policy to reflect preferences (“policy accommodation”) or the result of governments that pursue unpopular policies being replaced at elections by governments more in line with the public (“electoral turnover”)? We explore these questions by estimating annual aggregate public preferences (“the policy mood”) using responses to 287 questions administered 2,087 times and annual policy using budgetary data (“nonmilitary government expenditure”) for the whole of the postwar period. We find that mood moves in the opposite direction to policy and variations in mood are associated with variations in annual vote intentions. Policy is responsive to party control but not directly responsive to mood. Shifts in mood eventually lead to a change in government and thus policy, but this process may be very slow if the public has doubts about the competence of the opposition.

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