This article examines the use of public opinion in the formulation of criminal justice policy by state government agencies. Although democratic political ideology suggests that government must be responsive to the people, the complexities of modern society make difficult the determination of how best to assess and utilize public opinion in the policy process. This article addresses that issue by examining the results of a study that generated four databases: (1) a national survey of 147 state government agencies; (2) a random sample of 805 citizens located in a large, representative state; (3) a survey of 31 interest groups; and (4) a survey of 133 state legislators. The study suggests that methods currently used to assess public opinion may be unreliable, while the public opinion poll, which offers significant advantages, is an underutilized tool in state criminal justice policymaking.
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