Eight in Ten Say Public Should Have Greater Influence on Government

This is an interesting poll published by the World Public Opinion.org group. It highlights the question that has been debated in America since the Constitution became law; are we a democracy? Or a republic?


Eighty-one percent say when making "an important decision" government leaders "should pay attention to public opinion polls because this will help them get a sense of the public's views." Only 18 percent said "they should not pay attention to public opinion polls because this will distract them from deciding what they think is right." When ABC News correspondent Martha Raddatz cited polling data showing majority opposition to the Iraq war, Cheney responded, "So?" Asked, "So--you don't care what the American people think?" he responded, "No," and explained, "I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls."
Cheney is right. And wrong (aside from the fact that he was flippant in answering the question). Cheney believes that the public speaks every four years when elections are held. The American people disagree:



When Americans are asked whether they think that "elections are the only time when the views of the people should have influence, or that also between elections leaders should consider the views of the people as they make decisions," an extraordinary 94 percent say that government leaders should pay attention to the views of the public between elections.
Do lawmakers owe the public their subserviance? Or their best judgment? Most politicians do, in fact, follow the polls very closely - in their own narrow universe of Congressional District or State. Ideally, House members should be more responsible to the people given that they are up for election every two years while Senators, working with six year terms, should be more deliberative.

That's the way things were set up. But in modern times, Senators are just as susceptible to the winds of public opinion as any Congressman. That leaves the presidency and what we expect from our chief executive.

In the beginning, the president was seen as someone who basically ratified what Congress enacted. But the modern presidency, in charge of the national security state as well as the person who sets the domestic agenda, derives most of his real power from how much support he gets from the public. The office itself is weak. It is the president's ability to rally public support that makes him the most powerful man in America.

The American government is more complex than simple opinion polls. It is made up of a combination of the will of the people and the judgment of politicians - hence, we are a democratic republic. This is pretty much what the Founders intended although the influence of special interests on individuals and parties often gets in the way of lawmakers carrying out the will of the people.

In the main, though, individual politicians usually heed the will of their constituents. To do anything less risks defeat.

Read the entire poll for some fascinating insights into how Americans see their government.
This is an interesting poll published by the World Public Opinion.org group. It highlights the question that has been debated in America since the Constitution became law; are we a democracy? Or a republic?


Eighty-one percent say when making "an important decision" government leaders "should pay attention to public opinion polls because this will help them get a sense of the public's views." Only 18 percent said "they should not pay attention to public opinion polls because this will distract them from deciding what they think is right." When ABC News correspondent Martha Raddatz cited polling data showing majority opposition to the Iraq war, Cheney responded, "So?" Asked, "So--you don't care what the American people think?" he responded, "No," and explained, "I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls."
Cheney is right. And wrong (aside from the fact that he was flippant in answering the question). Cheney believes that the public speaks every four years when elections are held. The American people disagree:



When Americans are asked whether they think that "elections are the only time when the views of the people should have influence, or that also between elections leaders should consider the views of the people as they make decisions," an extraordinary 94 percent say that government leaders should pay attention to the views of the public between elections.
Do lawmakers owe the public their subserviance? Or their best judgment? Most politicians do, in fact, follow the polls very closely - in their own narrow universe of Congressional District or State. Ideally, House members should be more responsible to the people given that they are up for election every two years while Senators, working with six year terms, should be more deliberative.

That's the way things were set up. But in modern times, Senators are just as susceptible to the winds of public opinion as any Congressman. That leaves the presidency and what we expect from our chief executive.

In the beginning, the president was seen as someone who basically ratified what Congress enacted. But the modern presidency, in charge of the national security state as well as the person who sets the domestic agenda, derives most of his real power from how much support he gets from the public. The office itself is weak. It is the president's ability to rally public support that makes him the most powerful man in America.

The American government is more complex than simple opinion polls. It is made up of a combination of the will of the people and the judgment of politicians - hence, we are a democratic republic. This is pretty much what the Founders intended although the influence of special interests on individuals and parties often gets in the way of lawmakers carrying out the will of the people.

In the main, though, individual politicians usually heed the will of their constituents. To do anything less risks defeat.

Read the entire poll for some fascinating insights into how Americans see their government.