The structure and significance of public opinion in non-democratic contexts
Horne, Cale Daniel
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In this project I address two direct but to-date unexamined questions: Do domestic audiences in non-democratic contexts, where public opinion should not matter for policymaking, develop structured preferences toward government policies nonetheless? If so, can these preferences ever influence policymaking in settings where governments are not obviously accountable to their citizens? Typically, studies of policy-preference formation or policy responsiveness are confined to democracies, where citizens have institutionalized means of punishing unresponsive leaders. I argue that both the cognitive structures of policy preferences as well as responsiveness to those preferences are generalizable political traits, observable beyond democracies. I test this argument using survey data from repressive political settings, where public preferences should be underdeveloped, and government responsiveness to those preferences largely absent. In so doing, I offer a first effort to fill this lacuna in opinion-policy research, and in the process provide new insights into the opaque world of authoritarian politics.