Policy Feedback: Behaviors, Preferences and Policy Alternatives

Dr. Lihi Lahat

Governments enact policies that are supposed to affect the behavior of individuals and groups in a way that promotes the general welfare. One of the assumptions is that feedback mechanisms affect policies and lead to their ongoing change and adaptation. We explore this assumption by investigating whether there is a connection between people’s behavior, their preferences and support for policy alternatives.
Much attention has been given to the different stages of the policy cycle but less so to the feedback mechanism on the individual level. Due to the growing need to incorporate different voices into the policy process, we believe that one direction for future policy studies is investigating the connection between behaviors that are affected by policies, people’s preferences and support for policy alternatives. The connection between people’s preferences and policy alternatives is a vague one. While studies refer to issues such as the public mood, general perceptions and policymakers’ perceptions, there is still a need to identify the mechanisms that can clarify the connection between people’s behavior, their preferences and their support for policy alternatives in a specific policy field.
The current study takes the first step in this direction by exploring this question empirically with regard to how people use their time. Based on a survey of 671 Israeli adults, we explored several questions: 1) How do the interviewees divide their time with regard to four areas: sleep, work, care time and personal time? 2) What are their preferences regarding the use of time in these four categories? 3) What is their support for different policy alternatives that affect different uses of time? 4) Is there a connection between the uses of time, preferences regarding the uses of time and policy alternatives? In 5 out of 11 policy alternatives we explored, we found a connection between the way people use their time or want to use their time and their policy preferences. The study contributes to ideas regarding adapting policy tools to people’s preferences. Furthermore, it contributes to the development of the theoretical literature regarding feedback mechanisms in public policies.