“Dynamic Policy Responsiveness without Democracy” by Ross Buchanan
September 23, 2020 @ 9:00 am - 10:00 am
Author: Ross Buchanan (UT Austin)
Abstract: Scholarship has found a dynamic relationship between public opinion and policy in settings with strong democratic features—namely, electoral mechanisms and independent media. Under these conditions, public opinion affects policy, which then feeds back on public opinion. Less is known about this dynamic when democratic features are weak or absent. What little research there is has identified limited responsiveness, but it remains unclear whether it is sufficient to yield meaningful outcomes, and feedback has received scant attention. We propose a dynamic responsiveness model for nondemocratic polities in which policy outcomes feature. Our analysis looks at air pollution, which has objectively measurable outcomes, in 274 localities from 2013–2015 in a nondemocratic setting: China. We find that public opinion reacts to visible outcomes—not signals of policy itself, as has been found in democracies—and that policy is meaningfully responsive to public opinion.
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