Policy accommodation versus electoral turnover: policy representation in Britain, 1945-2015

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Does public policy in the UK respond to changes in public preferences? If so, is this the result of the government changing its policy to reflect preferences (‘policy accommodation’) or the result of governments that pursue unpopular policies being replaced at elections by governments more in line with the public (‘electoral turnover’)? We explore these questions by estimating aggregate public preferences (‘the policy mood’) using responses to 287 questions administered 2087 times and policy using budgetary data (‘non-military government expenditure’) for the whole of the post-war period. We find that mood moves in the opposite direction to policy and variations in mood are associated with variations in vote intentions. Policy is responsive to party control but not directly responsive to mood. Shifts in mood eventually lead to a change in government and thus policy, but this process may be very slow if the public has doubts about the competence of the opposition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)235-265
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Public Policy
Issue number2
Early online date22 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2019


  • public policy
  • governmental policy changes
  • public confidence


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