Duquesne Law Review


Most modern research has concluded that the general public participates in such a small way and possesses so little specific knowledge of political issues and events that those who govern are given very considerable discretion. For example, Dahl observed that "politics is a sideshow in the great circus of life." Presthus pointed out: "It is well known that individual participation in political affairs, beyond voting, is limited to a small minority of the population." Converse concluded that "government officials, in those (few) situations where they recognize public opinion, are prone to see it as 'an entity to be guided, not to be guided by.", Wahlke makes a heavily documented argument along this line, pointing out that, among other things, "few citizens entertain interests that clearly represent 'policy demands' or 'policy expectations' or wishes and desires that are readily convertible into them", "relatively few citizens communicate with their representatives," and "citizens are not especially interested or informed about the policymaking activities of their representatives as such." Studies designed to determine the impact of constituency attitudes on congressional voting behavior have found that such influences seem to be important only in limited policy areas.

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