Investigator's Book Suggests That Politicians Are Not Swayed by Public Opinion When Making Policy Decisions

Democracy, leadership and health care reform

Lawrence R. Jacobs, PhD, from the University of Minnesota, co-authored the book, Politicians Don't Pander: Political Manipulation and the Loss of Democratic Responsiveness, published by the University of Chicago Press in 2000.

The project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) national program Investigator Awards in Health Policy Research.

Key Results

The book, which challenges the widely held belief that elected officials fashion policies in order to win public approval, made a series of recommendations for increasing the influence that public opinion has over politicians' and policy-makers' decision-making:

  • Generate and protect an active public debate among private citizens.
  • Publicize politicians' defiance of public opinion.
  • Track media reporting on public opinion and point out when journalists convey misleading portrayals of public opinion and voter preferences.