What is public opinion? • “To speak with precisionof public opinion is a task not unlike coming to grips with the Holy Ghost” –VO Key Jr. • Attitudes, perceptions, and views individuals hold about politics and govt. • Willing to share, common concerns • how much goes into making policy?
What makes it so confusing? • Only attracts the attention of some • Many times no majority opinion • Pluralist: often prevails- govt. responds to the view of intense minority • Elitist: other issues that are obscure. ex: US relations with Madagascar? • Majority (mass): few, broad, all-concerning issues- social security • Attentive: those with an active interest
Ways to express public opinion • Voting • Protest demonstration • Letter-writing • Television commercials • Lobbyists • E-mail • Think of one more!
The debate on • How much should it really play in public policy? • Madison: popular opinion vs. public o. • “Momentary passions are not govt. concern, represent only “true interests” • Jackson and Progressive movements • George Gallup (the Gallup poll): any opinion held by citizens should be taken into account
George Gallup Quickly try to predict the margin of error!
How informed are the people? • Kosovo • Jaywalking • The news? Thinking stick: Are Americans informed enough to make governing decisions? Should there be prerequisites?
Types of Opinions: • Stable: change very little (death penalty) • Fluid: change frequently (popularity) • Latent: dormant, but may be aroused (the draft) • Intense: (abortion?) • Non-intensive: • Salient: personal importance to some (Brady Bill) CP Skip!
Types of Opinions: • Consensus: shared by 75% people (balanced budget) • Polarized: shared by LESS than 75% (serious gun control) Polarized opinion: America should outlaw weapons!
Measuring Public Opinion: Polls • Straw Polls are inaccurate • Elections don’t tell why • Scientific polls are the best! • Construction: - definition of universe • Accurate selection of sample (1000) • Writing the question • Selection or means of polling
What might be some problems with polls? • Sampling error (3%, Gallup amazing!) • Probability sample • Wording • Election night projections through “exit polls” Horse-race journalism!
Can you see how “wording” of questions can be manipulative?
Exit Poll Issues • “Horse Race” mentality • Pandering to whims of public • Early projection can discourage turnout in the West and flawed data (Florida!) Hand-counts In Florida: 2000 1992: So many polls lead to voter apathy. Clinton was projected way in lead! Perot?