Public Opinion The Role of Citizen Attitudes and Beliefs in Democracy
What is public opinion and what is its role in a democracy? • What is ideology and its role in a democracy? • What are the differences between American liberals and American conservatives? • Where do people get their ideologies and opinions?
Public Opinion • Public Opinion: The aggregate of citizen preferences and judgments about the decisions and policies of government officials. • Political Efficacy: the confidence that people have that their opinions and actions influence the government. • Ideology: a set of organized and coherent beliefs and opinions usually related to politics, public policy and the economy that form a general philosophy. • Specific Issues
Responsiveness • Responsiveness: the extent to which governmental policy matches the preferred policies of the public. • Which public? • Adults? • Voters? • Activists? • Interest groups? • The case against responsiveness
Some Major Modern Ideologies • “Right-wing” Ideologies • Conservatism • Fascism • Libertarianism • “Left-wing” Ideologies • Socialism • Communism • Anarchism
Dominant American Ideology • Liberals (Classical Liberalism) believe that goal of society should be to promote the ability of its members to develop their own capacities to their full extent (property and amass wealth). • They emphasize the importance of political democracy with limited government and individualism • They generally support market-based “laissez faire” economies, sometimes with social welfare programs to reduce some problems. • They are willing to accept economic inequality caused by market forces.
Political socialization: The process whereby citizens develop values, attitudes, beliefs, and opinions that enable them to support the political system
Agents of political socialization • Parents • School • College • Media • Historic Events • Policies • Social Class • Race • Gender
Final Thoughts • We expect democracies to have some level of responsiveness • Ideologies are an important aspect of public opinion and the idea of left-right ideologies comes the French Revolution • The dominant American ideology is an off-shoot of Classical Liberalism • Agents of political socialization are the influences that affect our values, attitudes, beliefs and opinions about the political system