Side by Side, Worlds Apart: Desired Policy Change as a Function of Preferences AND Perceptions

Dona Gene Mitchell, Matthew V. Hibbing, Kevin B. Smith, John R. Hibbing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The degree to which people desire policy change is a function of two factors: preferences for future policies and perceptions of current policies. Political scientists, pollsters, and pundits know a good deal about people's policy preferences but surprisingly little about the distance of those preferences from policy perceptions. In this article, we assess the distance between policy perceptions and policy preferences to calculate the amount of policy change desired. The data come from an original survey tapping respondents' preferred and perceived policies and from those few National Election Surveys where parallel items on policy preferences and perceptions were posed. By incorporating policy perceptions alongside of preferences, our findings provide a better indication of the gulf between the policy change desired by liberals and the policy change desired by conservatives. The findings help explain polarization in the United States where differences in policy preferences alone often do not indicate extreme diversity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)338-363
Number of pages26
JournalAmerican Politics Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2014


  • desired policy change
  • ideology
  • policy perceptions
  • policy preferences
  • political behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Side by Side, Worlds Apart: Desired Policy Change as a Function of Preferences AND Perceptions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this