Stabilising the Overton window

What determines the size and location of the Overton window? What types of proposals for government action are viewed as acceptable or sensible? Which proposals are viewed as popular enough to make their way into policy? And which proposals are outside the window – viewed as too radical to consider seriously? Even more fundamentally, which proposals are “unthinkable” in the current context?

One answer is “public opinion”. A more sophisticated answer is public opinion as mediated to politicians through a range of focus groups, political advisors or media representations. Clearly there is plenty of scope for a gap to open up between these two versions of public opinion.

Looked at from the other direction, public opinion is itself a product of similar forces, in particular media representations and debate. [Read more…]