In any democratic system, the question of whether governments pay attention to citizens’ needs and requests represents a crucial component of democratic quality. But what conditions favour this fundamental democratic process? This article compares policy priorities identified by public opinion with the actual legislative production in Italy, Spain and the UK from 2003 to 2012. The article’s methodology is a qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) in which causal conditions are represented by politico-institutional and contextual factors, while the outcome consists of the degree of overlap between public opinion priorities and legislation. Empirical analysis shows that there are four paths leading to a correspondence in priorities: first, it is linked to the combination of high government decision-making capacity and declining citizens’ trust in government; second, it is also linked to the combination of rising citizens’ trust and low government decision-making capacity. Third and fourth, priorities also correspond where there is a simultaneous absence of both trust and elections, and in the absence of both decision-making capacity and elections, respectively.