Polls, Policy, and the Future of American Democracy


Saturday, May 13, 2000 at Northwestern University

Organized by

Dennis Chong, Political Science, Northwestern University
Fay Lomax Cook, Education and Social Policy, Northwestern University
Susan Herbst, Political Science, Northwestern Univeristy
Lawrence Jacobs, Political Science, University of Minnoesota
Charles Manski, Economics, Northwestern University
Jeff Manza, Sociology, Northwestern University
Benjamin Page, Political Science, Northwestern University

Sponsored by:

Institute for Policy Research
School of Speech, Northwestern University
American Studies Program, Northwestern University
Department of Communication Studies, Northwestern University
Department of Political Science, Northwestern University
Department of Sociology, Northwestern University

The rapid growth of public opinion polling over the past three decades and the increasing use of polls by politicians suggest that the public voice is being considered more frequently than in the past. Some applaud the increased use of public opinion polls as evidence that democracy is working. Others decry the use of polls as a simplistic representation of the public voice because they misrepresent what the public really thinks. Yet, surprisingly, there has never been a forum such as this that simultaneously examines both sides of the public opinion/policymaking divide, despite its obvious importance for democratic theory.

This one-day conference will bring together researchers, pollsters, journalists, and politicians to consider these issues. They will explore interrelationships among polls and public opinion, policymakers, the mass media, and policy outcomes. Among the questions to be answered: Do polls accurately measure public opinion? Do polls drive policymakers' decisions? Under what circumstances do policymakers ignore or even seek to manipulate public opinion? What is the nature of the relationship betwen polls, public opinion, and public policy?

Four panels will feature original scholarly papers and discussants drawn from academia, government, the media, and leading public opinion firms. The keynote address will be presented by William Schneider, Senior Political Analyst for CNN. Humphrey Taylor, Chairman of The Harris Poll, will also be a featured speaker.

For more information about the program, see the latest schedule PDF icon (pdf)

See also conference flyer and registration form PDF icon (pdf)