This book develops and tests a 'thermostatic' model of public opinion and policy. The representation of opinion in policy is central to democratic theory and everyday politics. So too is the extent to which public preferences are informed and responsive to changes in policy. The coexistence of both 'public responsiveness' and 'policy representation' is thus a defining characteristic of successful democratic governance, and the subject of this book. The authors examine both responsiveness and representation across a range of policy domains in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada. The story that emerges is one in which representative democratic government functions surprisingly well, though there are important differences in the details. Variations in public responsiveness and policy representation responsiveness are found to reflect the 'salience' of the different domains and governing institutions - specifically, presidentialism (versus parliamentarism) and federalism (versus unitary government).
Stuart N. Soroka is associate professor and William Dawson Scholar in the Department of Political Science at McGill University, Montreal, Quebec. He is also Adjunct Professor and Director of the Canadian Opinion Research Archive at the School of Policy Studies at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, and co-director of the Media Observatory at the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada. He is the author of Agenda-Setting Dynamics in Canada (2002) and a number of articles in journals including the Journal of Politics, the British Journal of Political Science, the Canadian Journal of Political Science, and Comparative Political Studies. Christopher Wlezien is Professor of Political Science and Faculty Affiliate in the Institute for Public Affairs at Temple University. He previously was on the faculty at Oxford University, where he was Reader of Comparative Government and a Fellow of Nuffield College. While at Oxford, he co-founded the ESRC-funded Oxford Spring School in Quantitative Methods for Social Research. Prior to Oxford, he taught at the University of Houston, where he was founding director of the Institute for the Study of Political Economy. His articles have appeared in several collections, including Britain Votes and The Future of Election Studies, as well as journals including the American Journal of Political Science, the British Journal of Political Science, and the Canadian Journal of Political Science.