Public Opinion • Often gaps between what govt. does and what people want • Constitution not designed for what people want day to day, but rather long term • Framers didn’t want or expect one public • Factions would protect liberty! Also, it’s not always easy to know what the public thinks.
Public Opinion • What is public opinion? • How people think or feel about certain things • Poll = survey of public opinion • Business first started systematically measuring public opinion, and politics followed closely • People don’t spend a great deal of time thinking about politics =high levels of public ignorance • Despite this, Americans are pretty good at using cues; when given basic information the average citizen can use it fairly effectively
Polling • How does polling work? • Need to ask reasonable, fairly worded questions • Have to ask people about things for which they have some basis to form an opinion • Random sampling necessary • Have to be aware of sampling error (difference b/t results of 2 surveys) • For populations over 500,000 pollsters need to make about 15,000 phone call to reach 1065 respondents, ensuring the poll has a sampling error of only +/- 3% -increasingly difficult to get (why?) • Reliability harmed by low response rates
The Chicago Daily Tribune predicted Truman’s defeat based on a Gallup poll; the poll was conducted about a week before the election, and missed a shift by undecided voters toward Truman.
Polling • How do opinions differ? • OPINION SALIENCY: some people care more about certain issues than other people do • OPINION STABILITY: the steadiness or volatility of opinion on an issue • OPINION-POLICY CONGRUENCE: the level of correspondence between government actions and majority sentiment on an issue
Political Socialization • Political socialization influences opinion -children tend to share parents opinion -variances associated with race, class, gender, religion, etc. -BUT people with similarities do not necessarily think or vote the same way • Mass and elite opinions differ -Elites tend to know more about politics -tend to be more consistent in their opinions
Did you know…. • That 30% of people asked to participate in opinion polls refuse? • That public opinion pollsters typically measure national sentiment among the roughly 200 million adult Americans by interviewing only about 1500 people? • That a straw poll conducted by patrons of Harry’s New York Bar in Paris has an almost unbroken record of predicting the outcome of U.S. presidential elections? • That in its “Cess Poll,” an Iowa radio station assesses voters’ preferences for presidential primary candidates by reading a candidate’s name over the air, asking supporters of that candidate to flush their toilets, and measuring the resulting drop in water pressure?