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Article

Christopher Wlezien and Stuart N. Soroka

The link between public opinion and public policy is of special importance in representative democracies, as we expect elected officials to care about what voters think. Not surprisingly, a large body of literature tests whether policy is a function of public preferences. Some literature also considers the mechanisms by which preferences are converted to policy. Yet other work explores whether and how the magnitude of opinion representation varies systematically across issues and political institutions. In all this research, public opinion is an independent variable—an important driver of public policy change—but it is also a dependent variable, one that is a consequence of policy itself. Indeed, the ongoing existence of both policy representation and public responsiveness is critical to the functioning of representative democracy.

Article

Natascha Zaun and Christof Roos

EU immigration policies have incrementally evolved from a purely intergovernmental to a deeply integrated EU policy area. In practice, EU immigration policies and EU secondary legislation still leave significant discretion to the Member States, as witnessed by key developments in the various subfields of immigration policies—including policies on border protection, return and irregular migration, as well as labor migration and family migration policies. The key academic debates on EU immigration policies have mainly focused on explaining the decision-making processes behind the adoption of EU policies as well as their impact on national policies. While scholars find that these EU policies have led to liberalizations in the areas of family migration or labor migration, the irregular migration and border policies of the EU have gradually produced more restrictive outcomes. Policy liberalizations are usually based on the impact of EU institutions, which tend to have more liberal positions than Member States. Lowest common denominator output at the EU level, such as on the Blue Card Directive, is usually due to a resistance of individual Member States. With deeper integration of the policy area over time and qualified majority voting, however, resistant minorities have been increasingly outvoted. The stronger politicization of some areas of immigration, such as family migration, has also led the European Commission to curb its legislative proposals, as it would be much harder to adopt a piece of legislation today (2019) that provides adequate protection standards.

Article

On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that same-sex couples have the right to marry, and newspapers across the country declared that gay couples could now exercise this right in all 50 states. While the Obergefell decision was an important moment in history and a significant victory for the LGBT movement, it was not an immediate and complete change in policy. Rather, the change emerged slowly over decades from numerous complex interactions among federal, state, and local governmental actors. These same actors continue to influence marriage equality even after the Supreme Court’s historic ruling. A careful consideration of the path of marriage equality demonstrates the importance of federalism in the evolution of policy in the U.S. context. Not only does the extent of federal involvement influence state decision-making, but state policies also respond to the policymaking processes in other states. Examining the progression of marriage rights for same-sex couples also illustrates how variation in state government institutions shape policy outcomes in the U.S. system. For example, aspects of state courts such as judicial capacity influence the nature of state policy responses on the issue of gay marriage. Finally, focusing on marriage equality provides an opportunity to consider how institutions of government and political actors strategically interact to influence the policymaking process. For example, advocacy coalitions make strategic choices to focus on levels and institutions of government that are more responsive to their interests. Overall, same-sex marriage policy and the scholarship that investigates it highlight the complex and sometimes convoluted development that characterizes the policymaking process on many important issues in American politics and society.