Previous chapters have presented a variety of specific explanations of why policy practitioners misread the public. They misinterpret dissatisfaction with the hegemonic role and a desire for more international burden sharing as a public wish to disengage. They misread the vocal public as the majority and fail to seek more comprehensive information about public opinion. They underestimate the public or assume that congressional action is a faithful reflection of citizens' preferences. We have already addressed these and other patterns of misreading the public.
But one large question remains: Why has the American political process allowed the gap between public attitudes and policy practitioners' perceptions of those attitudes to persist? Members of Congress are answerable to the electorate. So is the president. They have many means of divining constituent preferences. Why don't elections reward those who get it right and replace those who don't? And why doesn't the prospect of electoral defeat drive practitioners--members of Congress in particular, but also high-level executive branch officials--to close the gap? Of course, these practitioners would not in all cases conduct or advocate policies consistent with public preferences. But one might think that electoral pressure, together with the norms of representative democracy, would at least encourage them to get a reasonably accurate reading and learn whether
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Publication information: Book title: Misreading the Public:The Myth of a New Isolationism. Contributors: Steven Kull - Author, I. M. Destler - Author. Publisher: Brookings Institution. Place of publication: Washington, DC. Publication year: 1999. Page number: 229.
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