Public Opinion in State Politics

By Jeffrey E. Cohen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 9
Public Opinion and Policy Making in the Culture
Wars: Is There a Connection Between Opinion and
State Policy on Gay and Lesbian Issues?

DONALD P. HAIDER-MARKEL AND MATTHEW S. KAUFMAN


Introduction

Government responsiveness to public preferences is a key tenant of democracy. But state government, often referred to as the invisible layer of government, is sometimes thought to ignore the opinions of an electorate whose attention is focused on local and national level politics (Roeder, 1994). Perhaps for this reason the influence of public opinion on statelevel policy adoption in the United States has not received much attention (but see Erikson, Wright, and McIver, 1989, 1993; Lowery, Gray, and Hager, 1989; Roeder, 1994; Weber and Shafer, 1972). Furthermore, only recently have researchers examined the influence of opinion on policy using measures of opinion on specific policy issues, such as abortion (Norrander and Wilcox, 1999).

Early state-level research on the relationship between public opinion and policy made use of national opinion data to generate “simulations or dummy variables to obtain state opinion estimates” of opinion (Roeder, 1994, 37). By the 1980s researchers had developed more reliable measures of citizen partisanship and ideology (Erikson, Wright, and McIver, 1989, 1993). From that point researchers have developed far more valid measures of state-level opinion, including measures of state opinion on specific issues (Brace, Sims-Butler, Arceneaux, and Johnson, 2002; Norrander and

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