The opinion-policy nexus in Europe and the role of political institutions

Rasmussen, Anne and Reher, Stefanie and Toshkov, Dimiter (2019) The opinion-policy nexus in Europe and the role of political institutions. European Journal of Political Research, 58 (2). pp. 412-434. ISSN 0304-4130 (

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A strong link between citizen preferences and public policy is one of the key goals and criteria of democratic governance. Yet, our knowledge about the extent to which public policies on specific issues are in line with citizen preferences in Europe is limited. This article reports on the first study of the link between public opinion and public policy that covers a large and diverse sample of concrete public policy issues in 31 European democracies. The findings demonstrate a strong positive relationship and a substantial degree of congruence between public opinion and the state of public policy. Also examined is whether political institutions, including electoral systems and the horizontal and vertical division of powers, influence the opinion‐policy link. The evidence for such effects is very limited, which suggests that the same institutions might affect policy representation in countervailing ways through different mechanisms.