Your Opinion Matters: An Exploration of Using Public Opinion Research in Homeland Security
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Homeland Security policy is a broad field that encompasses counter-terrorism, emergency management, immigration enforcement, customs and border security, and supporting the American way of life (DHS, 2014). The homeland security mission is very broad and relies heavily on bureaucratic agencies to lead policy formulation and implementation (Cohen et al., 2006; Vaughn and Villalobos, 2015). Bureaucratic agencies face the challenge of making policies that address security issues but that also win the support of elected officials such as the President and Members of Congress (MCs). Elected officials have the goal of winning election and re-election for themselves and their co-partisans, which means they are both attuned to the issues that win votes in the polling booth. Understanding the direction of public opinion may help policymakers craft policies more likely to be supported by elected officials.
Public opinion is important for policymakers and scholars to consider because it may shape—both constrain and empower—presidential or congressional policymaking. Canes-Wrone (2006) argues that presidents and MCs use public opinion to inform their policy positions. Within the homeland security domain, Hill and colleagues (2010) show that public opinion was an important tool for policymakers during the first decade of the 2000s because it allowed President Bush to build a coalition with Congress. In my literature review I find that there are several dominant issues for which scholars have used public opinion data. Scholars study the public’s perception of risk and threat, counter-terrorism, and privacy. Next, I catalogue the data sets that scholars use and their locations to facilitate easier use of public opinion measures for scholars and policymakers to conduct homeland security policy analyses.
Using this information, I conduct a pilot study that shows the role of public opinion in shaping policy change in border security and government surveillance. I add mediating variables such as election results. I present an online, web application that I developed, which makes it easier for finding useful data sets and exploring data. Lastly, I provide avenues for future research into the relationship between homeland security policy design and public opinion.