On policy feedback: insights from survey experiments
In comparative social science, policy feedback has become a widely popular device with which to understand policy persistence and the impacts of state-making and political entrepreneurship on mass opinion. Although the existence of such effects is frequently taken for granted, recent work has challenged prevailing assumptions about the unproblematic nature of feedback from policy change to mass opinion. This is an opportune time to put policy feedback to further test. We do so by bringing to bear the two main theoretical perspectives that underlie established and recent scholarship, and applying for the first time survey experiments to evaluate key expectations. Focusing on the relatively novel domain of counter-terrorism policy, we analyze data drawn from a national survey conducted in 2009. Results from embedded experiments suggest new evidence for policy feedback effects. Analysis of mechanisms suggests limits in interest-centered explanations, and the relevance of some under-studied, cognitive factors. We discuss implications and limits of our study for policy feedback scholarship, and with further reference to the case of U.S. attitudes toward the war on terror.
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