This paper examines two neglected conditions of the linkage process between public opinion and public policy, in an effort to evaluate an explanation, other than voter apathy and ignorance, of why the linkage appears to be so weak. These conditions are: (1) Opposing candidates for the same elective office must differ in their issue-related attitudes. (2) The winners' subsequent behavior vis-à-vis public policy must be consonant with their pre-election issue-related attitudes.
By the use of data collected before the 1966 House election, the amount of choice, or issue-related differences between candidates for the same House seat, is examined in all 435 Congressional districts. Sufficient differences were found in three policy areas—foreign affairs, civil rights, and domestic welfare—to imply that the electorate was given the opportunity to determine the direction of public policy.
Adding data collected on the roll-call behavior of the 435 winners allowed us to examine the second condition. Although in some cases there were substantial differences between pre-election attitude and postelection roll-call behavior on the same issue, this is clearly the exception rather than the rule. As a generalization, the second condition appears to be true.