The Extent of Public Opinion to Endorse or Halt Public Policies: A Review of Recent Change of Policy Goal Posts in Ethiopia

Dereje Terefe


It is believed that one of the functions of representative democracy is to provide a mechanism through    which public opinion and public policy are reliably and regularly connected. The relationship between public opinion and public policy shows the functioning of representative democracy. Conventional wisdom shows that policy representation has become a prominent issue in everyday politics in recent years. The primary concept of public opinion refers to public preferences. This conviction presupposes that there has to be a policy representation, where public preferences can soundly be reflected. Meantime, public responsiveness implies public preferences to be considered in public policymaking process. However, true representation depends fundamentally on a responsive public, a public that monitors and reacts to what government does. There is less benefit when representation is inattentive and uninformed. In consequence, authorities of public opinion uphold the view that responsive public is like a thermostat which adjusts its preferences for more or less policy in response to what policymakers plan to do. This implies the embedded direct relationship between public policy and the response of the public. That is, when there is a policy increase, ceteris paribus, public policy preferences for more policy decrease. Conversely, when policy decreases, ceteris paribus, the public preference for more policy increases. Consequently, the magnitude of public support matters and government responsiveness is made proportional to the magnitude of public preferences for change. The objective of this paper is to examine the role of public opinion on policy endorsement or its demands for reconsideration or rejection for convincing reasons. Moreover, it tries to define how policy responsiveness and public responsiveness are played out and the optimum level of public opinion to influence public policies. Taking this theoretical background, the paper attempts to review and analyze the role of public opinion in policymaking process in Ethiopia and finally concludes with brief recommendations on the way forward.

Keywords: Public opinion, public preference, public policy, policy responsiveness, public responsiveness, citizen participation, open and inclusive policymaking, and tokenism/pseudo-participation

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ISSN (Paper)2224-5731 ISSN (Online)2225-0972

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