Following E. E. Schattschneider's observation that a new policy creates a new politics, scholars of policy feedback have theorized that policies influence subsequent political behavior and public opinion. Recent studies observe, however, that policy feedback does not always occur and the form it takes varies considerably. To explain such variation, we call for policy feedback studies to draw more thoroughly on public opinion research. We theorize that: (1) feedback effects are not ubiquitous and may in some instances be offset by political factors, such as partisanship and trust in government; (2) policy design may generate self-interested or sociotropic motivations, and (3) feedback effects result not only from policy benefits but also from burdens. We test these expectations by drawing on a unique panel study of Americans' responses to the Affordable Care Act. We find competing policy and political pathways, which produce variations in policy feedback.
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The authors gratefully acknowledge the substantial and generous advice and guidance of Joanne Miller as well as the helpful feedback anonymous reviewers and colleagues at seminars in the United States and Europe. Research assistance at the University of Minnesota of Penny Thomas and, especially, Brianna Smith and Christina Farthart was invaluable and much appreciated. Financial support was provided, for Professor Mettler, by the Cornell University and Robert Wood Johnson’s Investigator Award and, for Professor Jacobs, the Mondale Endowment and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.