Public opinion has been a significant tool in democratic countries’ politics, including the United States. Politicians have often made numerous decisions depending on public opinion, even when these decisions are contrary to their beliefs. This paper provides an in-depth discussion of how public opinion influences American politics.
How Public Opinion Affects American Politics
Public opinions have been shown to predict or reflect election campaigns and results. These sentiments demonstrate how the public feels about certain political ideologies and opponents who might win (Krutz 212). As a result, political candidates with significant public opinion polls are at an advantage in winning the elections because these polls help forecast election outcomes. For example, Donald Trump had higher polls than any other presidential candidate in 2016, despite the controversial remarks he used to make during this period. As a result, many people predicted that he might win the elections. Eventually, Trump’s higher campaign polls were reflected in his presidential win.
Public opinions affect media coverage of political opponents. Candidates with significant influence on public opinions, whether good or bad, are highly preferred for media coverage because the public is often interested in knowing who might win (Krutz 212). An example of this approach is horserace coverage, where the media covers every candidate’s political moves throughout the presidential campaign, whether positive, neutral, or negative. Notably, the extent of public opinion determines the political candidates worthy of media coverage (Krutz 212). The media demonstrates this by interviewing candidates who are ahead of other candidates and interest the public. For example, during the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump had more media coverage than any other presidential candidate due to the immense good and bad public opinions he gained during his campaigns. In addition, throughout presidential primary seasons, the media demonstrates the bandwagon effect by showing the candidates who poll well during the fall and first few primaries (Krutz 212). The bandwagon effect happened when Bill Clinton campaigned for the presidency in 1992. Despite being accused of adultery, the media gave Bill Clinton significant attention during the elections, which led to considerable momentum in the next primaries until he won the presidential elections.
Public opinions affect the financial support candidates receive and their performance during campaigns. Politicians with massive popularity polls tend to receive more campaign funds than those with less influence (Krutz 213). This is because, during campaigns, donors believe that public opinion polls dictate the probable winners. As a result, donors decide on the candidate they are willing to offer financial support for the campaigns. Additionally, candidates at the bottom of the polls tend to experience considerable difficulties raising campaign funds, thus making them perform poorly (Krutz 213). This scenario was seen in the 2016 presidential elections, where 75%, 15%, and 2% of Democrats expressed their interest in voting for Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O’Malley, respectively. As a result, Clinton, Sanders, and O’Malley raised $47 million, $15 million, and $2 million in campaign donations, respectively (Krutz 213). In September 2015, Sanders’ campaign donations increased considerably, significantly increasing his campaign funds.
Public opinions affect the United States government’s actions in international and local politics. A collective public opinion on various issues, such as the country’s economy and military decisions, significantly impacted the United States government’s actions. For example, in 2013, President Obama announced that the United States government was considering an airstrike on Syria since its government had frequently used chemical weapons, including sarin gas, a nerve agent, on the opposition (Bowen et al. 815). Unfortunately, the general public did not agree with this decision. As a result, President Obama withdrew his consideration and asked the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, to negotiate with Syria to surrender the illegal weapons. Finally, public opinions influence legislatures’ positions by making them choose directions in line with public responsiveness to various policies (Persson 2). This makes legislatures make laws that are in line with the public interest. For example, gun laws are a majorly debated bill in Congress due to the pressure from the public about the damage it causes in their communities.
In conclusion, public opinion affects American politics in various ways. Firstly, it influences the election results in a country. Candidates with high public polls are often thought o win elections. Secondly, popular polls shape the media coverage of various political opponents. Political figures with significantly high opinion polls enjoy broader media coverage than those without high polls. Thirdly, political candidates with significant power over public opinion enjoy more campaign funding donations since they pose as promising candidates for the upcoming elections. Lastly, public opinions have impacted the American government’s politics on issues such as military decisions and legislative roles.
Bowen, Wyn, et al. “The Obama Administration and Syrian Chemical Weapons: Deterrence, Compellence, and the Limits of the ‘Resolve Plus Bombs’ Formula.” Security Studies, vol. 29, no. 5, 2020, pp. 797–831, doi:10.1080/09636412.2020.1859130.
Krutz, Glen. American Government. 3rd ed., Houston, Rice University, 2021.
Persson, Mikael. “From Opinions to Policies: Examining the Links Between Citizens, Representatives, and Policy Change.” Electoral Studies, vol. 74, 2021, pp. 1–7, doi:10.1016/j.electstud.2021.102413.