Deliberate disproportionate policy response: Towards a conceptual turn

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Policy scholars tend to view disproportionate policy and its two component concepts - policy over- and underreaction - as either unintentional errors of commission or omission, or nonintentional responses that political executives never intended to implement yet are not executed unknowingly,inadvertently or accidentally. This article highlights a conceptual turn, whereby these concepts are reentering the policy lexicon as types of intentional policy responses that are largely undertaken when political executives are vulnerable to voters. Intentional overreactions derive from the desire of political executives to pander to voters' opinions or signal extremity by overreacting to these opinions in domains susceptible to manipulation for credit-claiming purposes. Intentional underreactions are motivated by political executives' attempts to avoid blame and may subsequently lead to deliberate overreaction. This conceptual turn forces scholars to recognise the political benefits that elected executives may reap from deliberately implementing disproportionate policies, and that such policies can at times be effective.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)185-208
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Public Policy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Cambridge University Press.


  • crises
  • disproportionate policy
  • doctrine
  • overreaction
  • rhetoric
  • underreaction


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