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Dynamic Responsiveness in the American States, 1936 to 2014

July 2016

Renee O’Connell


Principally, democratic governments should respond to the will of the people. Therefore, changes in public opinion should result in changes in public policy. The authors of this study find that changes in the mass public’s policy views are associated with changes in state policy outputs. Additionally, the authors address the role of institutional design and responsiveness, and they find little consistent support that institutions such as term limits, direct democracy, and campaign finance limits improve responsiveness to public opinion.

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Policy Implications

Shifts in public opinion may play a stronger role than partisan selection with regards to policy changes. States should consider the actual effectiveness of implementing term limits, direct democracy, or campaign finance limits in an attempt to improve responsiveness to changes in public opinion.

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