Chapter Six: Public Opinion and Political Socialization
Learning Objectives • Define what we mean by public opinion, and explain its uses by policymakers and interest groups. • Distinguish between public opinion and private opinion. • Describe consensus opinion and divisive opinion and explain how these differ from non-opinion.
Learning Objectives • Explain how public opinion is formed in the United States, including political socialization by families, education, peers, the media, opinion leaders, and the influence of events. • Contrast the life cycle effect with the generational effect in explaining the influence of political events on public opinion and behavior. • Explain the influence of education and occupation on voting behavior.
Learning Objectives • Explain the influence of socioeconomic status. • Explain the influence of religion, race and ethnicity, and geographical region. • Define and explain the impact of the gender gap. • Describe early opinion polls and evaluate their primary flaw.
Learning Objectives • Describe current sampling techniques, including random sampling and quota sampling. • Explain problems associated with telephone and Internet polls. • Describe the trends in public opinion regarding trust in government and confidence in institutions. • Describe some of the limits to the value of polls to public officials when making policy decisions.
Defining Public Opinion? What Is Public Opinion— The aggregate of individual attitudes or beliefs shared by some portion of the adult population.
Defining Public Opinion • Types of Public Opinion • Consensus Opinion • Divisive Opinion • Non-opinion
How Public Opinion Is Formed: Political Socialization • Sources of Political Socialization • Family • Education • Peers and Peer Group • Opinion Leaders • Media • Political Events
Political Preferences and Voting Behavior • Demographic Influences on Voting Behavior • Education • Economic Status • Religious Influence: • Denomination • Religiosity • Race and Ethnicity • Gender • Geographic Region
Political Preferences and Voting Behavior • Elections: The Most Important Influences • Party Identification • Perception of the Candidates • Issue Preferences
Measuring Public Opinion • Sampling Techniques • Representative sampling: The most important principle in sampling, or poll taking, is randomness. Every person should have a known chance, and especially an equal chance, of being sampled.
Measuring Public Opinion • Problems with Polls • Sampling Error • Polling Questions • Push Polls • Telephone Polling Problems • Internet Polling
Public Opinion and the Political Process • Political Culture and Public Opinion • Americans tend to turn to government to solve public problems. • Government policy tends to follow public opinion. • Public opinion can also limit government action.
Web Links • Polling Report : An up-to-date and easy-to-use Web site that offers polls and their results organized by topic: www.pollingreport.com. • Real Clear Politics (RCP): Daily digest of poll results, election analysis, and political commentary as well as an archive of past political polls: www.realclearpolitics.com.
What If…Young People Were Required to Serve? • Young people typically know less about politics, express less interest in politics, and vote less often than their elders. • As more young voters turned out in 2008, they have tremendous potential to shape politics and policy if they get involved. • Political socialization impacts people’s attitudes toward service.
What If…Young People Were Required to Serve? • For those who support service, the benefit is a diverse group of committed individuals performing public work that needs doing. • For those opposed, national service is forced voluntarism and the compulsory nature undermines the benefits for individuals and communities.
You Can Make a Difference: Being a Critical Consumer of Opinion Polls • Although opinion polls tell us a variety of things, they are not necessarily accurate. • Pay attention only to opinion polls that are based on scientific or random samples. • Pay attention as well to how people were contacted for the poll—by mail, by telephone, in person in their homes, or in some other way (such as via the Internet).