When and How New Policy Creates New Politics

When and How New Policy Creates New Politics: Examining the Feedback Effects of the Affordable Care Act on Public Opinion

by Lawrence R. Jacobs, University of Minnesota, and Suzanne Mettler, Cornell University

Following E. E. Schattschneider’s observation that “a new policy creates a new politics,” scholars of “policy feedback” have theorized that policies influence subsequent political behavior and public opinion. Recent studies observe, however, that policy feedback does not always occur and the form it takes varies considerably. To explain such variation, we call for policy feedback studies to draw more thoroughly on public opinion research. We theorize that: (1) feedback effects are not ubiquitous and may in some instances be offset by political factors, such as partisanship and trust in government; (2) policy design may generate self-interested or sociotropic motivations, and (3) feedback effects result not only from policy benefits but also from burdens. We test these expectations by drawing on a unique panel study of Americans’ responses to the Affordable Care Act. We find competing policy and political pathways, which produce variations in policy feedback.

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Perspectives on PoliticsVolume 16Issue 2