Dynamics of public opinion and policy response under proportional and plurality elections

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We compare the patterns of adjustment of government policy to changes in public opinion in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. These countries are similar in many ways, except that the United Kingdom has plurality elections and single‐party government, while the Netherlands has proportional representation (PR) and coalition government. This provides the first application of the Macro Polity approach to a country with PR elections. We find that government policy in the Netherlands is highly responsive to public opinion. This cannot be the result of alternation of government, but instead must be the result of some other process, such as coalition bargaining. In the United Kingdom, however, the dynamic of adjustment is far more complex. Alternation of government does not produce responsiveness, but rather seems to get in the way of it. This leads to an over‐correction dynamic in which policy can be out of line with public opinion for long periods of time.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)333-355
Number of pages23
JournalEconomics and Politics
Issue number1
Early online date6 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2023


  • public opinion
  • Netherlands
  • UK
  • government policy
  • plurality
  • proportional representation


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