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Public Opinion

Public Opinion. Chapter 7 P. 154-176. What is Public Opinion?. How Polling Works How Opinions Differ. Public opinion. Publics/Factions Groups with a distinct political interests Advancing their ideas and interests at the expense of other citizens Public opinion

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Public Opinion

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  1. Public Opinion Chapter 7 P. 154-176

  2. What is Public Opinion? How Polling Works How Opinions Differ

  3. Public opinion • Publics/Factions • Groups with a distinct political interests • Advancing their ideas and interests at the expense of other citizens • Public opinion • How people think or feel about a particular issue/thing • Not easy to measure • Opinions of active and knowledgeable people carry more weight • Federalist No. 10 • Deals with the problem of factions • Liberty is to faction what air is to fire • People are factious by nature • Republican government is the proposed cure for faction • Federalist No. 51 • James Madison • Coalitions more moderate in a large republic • Coalition=an alliance of factions • Need to accommodate a diversity of interests and opinions P. 156

  4. Reasons why Government Policy is At Odds with Public Opinion • Framers • Created federal government to achieve specific goals • More perfect union • Justice • Domestic tranquility • Common defense • General welfare • Blessings of liberty • Framers • Believed there was no such thing as public opinion • Many publics/factions • Not easy to know what the public thinks • Government tends to listen to elite opinion P. 155

  5. Checks on Public Opinion • Representative government • Federalism • Separation of powers • Bill of Rights • Independent judiciary P. 155

  6. Public Opinion • Suffers from • Ignorance • Instability • Sensitivity to the wording of the question • Wording can alter answers • Order of options can affect the option chosen

  7. Polling • Poll • Survey of public opinion • Provides with reasonable accuracy the measure of how people think • First known example of an opinion poll was a • Local straw poll conducted by The Harrisburg Pennsylvanian in 1824 • Showing Andrew Jackson leading John Quincy Adams by 335 votes to 169 in the contest for the presidency • Pollsters need to • Pose reasonable questions that are worded fairly • Ask people about things for which they have some basis to form an opinion P. 157

  8. Polling • Random sample • Method of selecting from a population in which • Any given person has an equal chance of being interviewed • Necessary to insure a reasonably accurate measure of how the entire population thinks or feels • National surveys • For populations over 500,000 • Pollsters need to make about 15,000 phone calls to reach • 1,065 respondents • Insuring the poll has a sampling error of only +/- 3% • Sampling error • Difference between the results of random samples taken at the same time • Exit polls • Polls based on interviews conducted on Election Day with randomly selected voters

  9. George Gallup founded • American Institute of Public Opinion • Precursor of • The Gallup Organization • In 1935 • Earned reputation when successfully predicted the Roosevelt victory over Landon in 1936 • Best known for their accuracy in predicting the outcome of United States presidential elections • Big mistakes in 1948 and 1976 • Became the Gallup Organization 1958 • LouisHarrisjoined the Roper firm as Roper's assistant • Founded Harris and Associates, Inc. (1956) • One of the best-known polling organizations • Polled for political candidates • Notably for President John F. Kennedy • Engineered and conducted polling while serving on the Kennedy strategy committee during the 1960 campaign • Elmo Roper founded 1946 • American pioneer in political forecasting using scientific polls • Built a comprehensive research facility to ensure that the views of the public are recorded properly

  10. How Opinions Differ • Opinion saliency • Some people care more about certain issues than other people do • Opinion stability • Steadiness or volatility of an issue • Issues on which opinions are steady versus • Issues on which opinions are volatile • Opinion-policy congruence • Level of correspondence between government action and majority sentiment on an issue • Issues on which the government is in sync with popular views or majority sentiments while • On other issues it is significantly out of sync P. 157

  11. Political Socialization Origins of Attitudes Family Religion Gender Schooling and Information Social Class Race and Ethnicity Region

  12. Political socialization • Political socialization • Process by which personal and other background traits influence one’s views about politics • Mass opinion v. elite opinion • Political elites • Know more about politics • Think differently about politics • Have different views and beliefs • Hold more or less consistent set of opinions as to the policies government ought to pursue • Government tends more to elite opinion than popular views on many matters P. 158

  13. Origins of Political Attitudes • Origins of Political Attitudes • Family • Religious tradition • Gender gap • Schooling/information • Social class • Race/ethnicity • Region P. 158

  14. Family • Process of socialization begins very young • Young people identify with their parent’s political party by the time they are in 5th grade/11 years old • Party identification of your family is absorbed, although children become more independent-thinking with time • > ½ of children identify with one party or the other • High school seniors • 91% know the presidential preference of their parents • 71% know parents’ party identification P. 158-159

  15. Religious tradition P. 159

  16. Religion • Families form and transmit political beliefs through their religious tradition • Religious traditions • Protestantism • Catholicism • Judaism

  17. Gender Gap Women Men • Ban liquor • Against war • For gun control • Confidence in the future • Allow liquor • Support call for war • Want use of guns • Not as much confidence in the future P. 160

  18. Gender Gap • Issues on which men and women have biggest difference of opinion • Size of government • Use of force/Gun control • Confidence in the future • Spending programs for the poor • Gay rights • Men • Increasingly Republican since the mid-1960s • Women • Continue to identify with the Democratic Party at approximately the same rate since the early 1950s • This reflects attitudinal differences P. 160

  19. Gender GapDifferences in Political Views of Men and Women

  20. Schooling/information • Education is a liberalizing force • College educated more liberal than high school educated • Most prestigious colleges even more liberal • Seniors more liberal than freshmen • Social sciences more liberal than engineering • More college more likely to participate in politics • PhDs decidedly more liberal • Reasons explaining effects of college • Type of person going to college • Exposure to more information • College teachers teach liberalism • Intellectuals need freedom to explore new and unpopular ideas P. 161

  21. Education • 1920s-1960s • Studies showed • College education had a • Liberalizing effect possibly because of • Exposure to liberal elites • Contemporary college students’ opinions are • More complicated

  22. Generational Gap on the Issues

  23. Social class • Americans uncomfortable acknowledging social class • Middle class • Most Americans think they are middle class • Despite embarrassment • Difference between • Truck driver • Working class • Blue collar • Investment banker • Upper class/management • White collar • Public opinion less determined by class in U.S. than in Europe P. 163

  24. Social class • Issues that lead people to choose party are • Non-economic • Race • Abortion • School prayer • Arms control • Environment • Gay rights P. 163

  25. Race/ethnicity • Blacks • Most consistently and overwhelmingly Democratic • At every income level more Democratic • Fewer cleavages • Hispanics • Less so • Asians • Much less so • Identify with Republicans • Japanese most conservative • Koreans most liberal P. 164

  26. African American and White Opinion

  27. Region • Southern congressmen vote consistently more conservatively than northern congressmen • South more accommodating to business • Less so to labor • Difficult for labor to organize • Difference among regions is greatest for • Non-economic issues P. 167

  28. Regional Differences • White southerners were once more conservative than other regions regarding • Aid to minorities • Legalizing marijuana • School busing and • Rights of the accused • Southerners are now significantly less Democratic than they were for most of the 20th century

  29. Political Ideology Categories of Opinion Political Elites Labels

  30. Political Ideology vs. Political Culture Ideology Culture • A coherent and consistent set of beliefs about • Who ought to rule • Principles rulers ought to obey • Policies rulers ought to pursue • Examples • Socialism • Communism • Fascism • Most Americans do not think about politics ideologically • A distinctive and patterned way of thinking about how • Political system and • Economic life ought to be run • American political culture • Freedom • Equality of opportunity • Civic duty • Attachment to importance of Americanism • At some level this is an ideology P. 167

  31. Ideological Self-Identification

  32. Categories of opinion • Economy • Government policy toward • Jobs • Money for education, health care • Taxes on rich • Civil rights • Segregation • Hiring opportunities • Compensatory programs • Affirmative action • Public and political conduct • Rights of the accused • Protest demonstrations • Legalize marijuana • Eliminate causes of crime P. 169

  33. Labels • Pure conservative • Conservative on both economic and personal conduct • 28% of population • Pure liberal • Liberal on both economic and personal conduct • 17% of population • Libertarian • Conservative on economic • Liberal on personal conduct • 21% of population • Populist • Liberal on economic • Conservative on personal conduct • 24% of population P. 170

  34. Conservatives • Free market • States’ rights • Reliance on individual choice in economic affairs • Cut back welfare • Low taxes • Lock up criminals • Curb anti-social behavior • Older • Higher incomes • White • Midwest • For Reagan P. 170

  35. Liberals • Active government intervention in economy • Create social welfare state • Reduce economic inequality • Tax rich heavily • Cure economic causes of crime • Allow abortions • Protect rights of the accused • Broadest free speech and press • Young • College educated • Non-religious • Jewish • Anti-Reagan P. 170

  36. Liberals • Economic policy • Favor jobs for all • Subsidized medical care and education • Increase taxation of the rich • Civil rights favor • Strong federal action to desegregate schools • Hiring opportunities for minorities • Strict enforcement of civil rights laws • Public and political conduct • Are tolerant of protest demonstrations • Favor legalization of marijuana • Emphasize protecting the rights of the accused

  37. How Liberals and Conservatives Differ

  38. Libertarians • Small weak government • Government stay out of economy • Government stay out of personal lives of the people • Young • College educated • High income • No religion • For Reagan P. 170

  39. Populists • Reduce economic inequality • Control business • Lock up criminals • Allow prayer in the schools • Older • Poorly educated • Low income • Religious • Female • South and Midwest • For Reagan P. 170

  40. Policy Preferences of Democratic and Republican Voters

  41. Elite opinion • Elites • People who have a disproportionate share of some valued resource • Money • Education • Prestige/social class • Athletic ability • Beauty • Political power • Raise and frame political issues • State the norms by which issues should be settled • Do not define problems that are rooted in personal experience • Do not define economic problems • Political elites/activists • Tend to display ideological consistency • Influence of peers • Likes attract likes • Associate with people who agree with you • More time you spend—more your views will shift to match theirs P. 171

  42. Elites influence Public Opinion • In two ways • Access to media • Raise and frame the issues • State the norms by which issues should be settled • Norm • Standard of right or proper conduct • Racism and sexism are wrong • Foreign policy • Elites define problem as well as • Policy options • Many elites therefore many different elite opinions P. 172

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