"Satisfaction with government and society is affected not only by what public officials are doing, but also by which levels of government are doing it."
- Schneider et al., Intuitive Federalism
Public opinion is an important factor to consider when evaluating the health of the Federal system. Researchers have shown that American citizens do in fact assign different expectations - or "policy responsibilities" - to different levels of government. Americans appear to have, as one pair of researchers phrase it, an "intuitive federalism." Our ability to track American attitudes toward federalism is significant. As other research has demonstrated, American attitudes toward federalism has a profound bearing on their assessment of the American political system as a whole. In the words of one notable federalism expert, "satisfaction with government and society is affected not only by what public officials are doing, but also by which levels of government are doing it."
“The maintenance of federalism involves ‘thinking federal,’ that is, being oriented toward the ideals and norms of republicanism, constitutionalism, and power sharing.” Daniel J. Elazer
Responsiveness and Effectiveness
"Americans interact more frequently with lower levels of government and believe these levels better respond to constituents’ needs. Americans view the federal government as wasteful and inefficient, and although such problems are endemic to government at all levels, citizens believe they can better hold state and local governments accountable." John Samples and Emily Ekins
Trust and Confidence
Shifts in public opinion are critical to measure, monitor, and understand. This is true especially in the American system, where public opinion data shows that American confidence and loyalty in their institutions is fundamentally related to how responsibilities are assigned at different levels of government.
One of the essential components of a healthy relationship between state & local governments and the federal government is an active and educated citizenry. In other words, federal systems work best when city halls and state houses are filled with active and engaged people dealing with problems close to home. The extent to which this is true is one important measure of the health of a federal system.
"There must be power in the States and the Nation to remold through experimentation our economic practices and institutions to meet changing social and economic needs...It is one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory, and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country" Justice Louis Brandeis