This article develops a model of public responsiveness to social policy in the United States, focusing in particular on the public's ability to distinguish between direct and indirect government spending as means of financing social benefits. We argue that public opinion should be responsive to changes in both direct (appropriations) and indirect (tax expenditures encouraging the private provision of social goals) spending. Further, the public should respond to changes in direct and indirect spending in distinct ways consistent with the divergent resource and interpretive effects of the two types of spending. We find that while public opinion is not responsive to the total amount of federal social spending, it is attentive to changes in direct and indirect spending, considered as separate concepts. The results show that the electorate treats changes in the relative allocation of government spending as representing important shifts in the ideological direction of public policy.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science