LAST CALL: Good policy isn't a popularity contest

Imagine a country in which public opinion does not matter; where

public policy decisions are made for the "right reason" rather than the

right rankings in public opinion polls.

What sounds like a nightmare for the DC lobbyists and public affairs

executives who commission polls to help make the case for their clients

is the utopia of policy wonks.

CATO Institute has just published a paper by political scientist Robert

Weissberg that states in its executive summary: "Policymakers often

assume that public opinion is a reliable guide to making public policy,

but they should not."

Seems the good professor feels that the polls cannot measure the nuances

and complexities of an issue to really provide informed public


But for worried staffers in the agencies of K Street, here's some

comfort from James Bryce, who noted in The American Commonwealth in

1891: "Towering over (elected officials and the political parties) ...

public opinion stands out, in the United States, as the great servant of

power, the master of servants who tremble before it."

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