[Journal:] American Journal of Political Science [ISSN:] 1540-5907 [Publisher:] Wiley [Place:] Oxford [Year:] 2020 [Issue:] Early View Articles
Does public opinion affect political speech? Of particular interest is whether public opinion affects (i) what topics politicians address and (ii) what positions they endorse. We present evidence from Germany where the government was recently forced to declassify its public opinion research, allowing us to link the content of the research to subsequent speeches. Our causal identification strategy exploits the exogenous timing of the research's dissemination to cabinet members within a window of a few days. We find that exposure to public opinion research leads politicians to markedly change their speech. First, we show that linguistic similarity between political speech and public opinion research increases significantly after reports are passed on to the cabinet, suggesting that politicians change the topics they address. Second, we demonstrate that exposure to public opinion research alters politicians' substantive positions in the direction of majority opinion.