The authors surveyed federal agency officials, congressional and White House staffers, and employees of various policy-making organizations about their attitudes toward and knowledge of the public. They found a great difference between what official Washington assumes they know about average Americans and the actual opinions and attitudes of American citizens. When it comes to policy issues—on such crucial issues as defense, crime, social security, welfare, public education, and the environment—officials’ perceptions of the public’s knowledge and positions are often wide of the mark. Compounding this ignorance is a pervasive attitude of smug dismissiveness toward the citizenry and little sense of accountability. As a result, bureaucrats tend to follow their own preferences without much reference to the opinions of the public. The authors recommend changes to improve governance.
Please join us for interesting look at the Washington elite in a time of populist anger.