A reflection on the degree to which public policy can or should be forged in parallel with public opinion.
Public opinion is the ‘total’ of individual sentiments, attitudes or views held by people. As a result, it can be influenced by political media and public associations. Public opinions can affect policy both positively and negatively, depending on the general view of the policy. On the other hand, views regarding the use of public opinion in the process of policymaking can be many and diverse, just like the opinions themselves. In this paper, I will reflect on the value of public opinion in policymaking and the extent to which it should go in the same process until the policy gets implemented.
At the outset, we can get to public opinion by assessing the individual opinions at personal levels and then combining them. This way, the percentage of thepopulation with common views and preferences can get established. There are preferences for policy and responsiveness to it. The public normally responds in these two ways when a policy gets proposed. A public that is quick to respond to a certain proposal acts as a thermostat and adjusts its preferences for either more or less policy depending on what action policy makers take.And governments should always come up with policy outputs that reproduce the concerns and interests of the public. Hence, public policy should be a big factor in the policy-making process, especially when the public’s mood is successfully communicated through interest groups.
However, the extent to which public opinion should go into the policymaking process is another question. As much as it should be held that the policy-making process should reflect the interests of the state or general public, it must also be considered that there are other factors that affect the process, not mentioning that public opinion itself can be manipulated. For example, in the United States, both Public and State views, as well as those done by interest groups, can be held as non-governmental forces that manipulate policy-outcomes. Additionally, other factors like party control, external state conditions, population indicators, geographic, and economic conditions add more predictability of a policy outcome.
As such, there should be a limit to which, public opinion is used as the main factor in making policies. For example, for a developing country, more spending on theministry of education could be the favored interest of the public. But government officials should also not forget other important sectors like public health when allocating more funds for education. The power of opinion should not underrate the power of government officials and institutions in relation to the legislature. Although the government acts a representative democracy with policy outputs that reflect the political condition, public opinion should not dictate policy outputs, especially in critical matters like wages and taxes, where thresholds are important for a nation’s economic stability.
All the same, it is the demands of the public that should drive policy-making decisions. The formal apparatus of the government should only filter out harmful outcome policies and dismiss biased public opinion while making clarifications to confusing issues. Even as public opinion is regarded as consistent in the policymaking process, it should also be retained that groups have varying goals and may push for their very own goals.
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