The Public as a Thermostat: Dynamics for Preferences for Spending

Democratic accountability requires that the public be reasonably well-informed about what policymakers actually do. Such a public would adjust its preferences for "more" or "less" policy in response to policy outputs themselves. In effect, the public would behave like a thermostat; when the actual policy "temperature" differs from the preferred policy temperature, the public would send a signal to adjust policy accordingly, and once sufficiently adjusted, the signal would stop. In domains where policy is clearly defined and salient to the public, changes in the public's preferences for more policy activity are negatively related to changes in policy.