Chapters 7 & 8 Public opinion and political participation
What is public opinion? • A collection of the shared attitudes of many different people in matters relating to politics, public issues, or the making of public policy. • Should the government see to it that all people have adequate housing? • Should children be bused into certain districts in order to achieve ethnic and racial diversity?
How do we Measure public opinion? • Polls: surveys of public opinion • Usually refers to opinions on issues and/or candidates "Polling is merely an instrument for gauging public opinion. When a president or any other leader pays attention to poll results, he is, in effect, paying attention to the views of the people.” George Gallup According to Gallup, why is polling beneficial to a democracy? History of polling • Straw polls: asking the same question to a large group of people • Unreliable: didn’t necessarily include a cross section of the electorate • Literary Digest debacle !!!!!! • Modern polling dates back to the 1930s • Gallup poll- a scientific method of polling targeting various groups of people and asking them specific questions
Polling • Things to consider when constructing a poll • Question wording and order • Is it loaded/ leading? • Emotional language that may precondition the “right” answer • “Most doctors believe that exercise is good for you. Do you agree?” • “Voting is essential to democracy. Do you vote?”
Question wording: Is it understandable? • 1992 Roper poll for the American Jewish Committee • “Does it seem possible or does it seem impossible to you that the Nazi extermination of the Jews never happened?” • 22% said it seemed possible the Holocaust never occurred and another 12% said they do not know • Roper organization was embarrassed by the poorly worded question and suspected it may have contributed to such shocking results. • It re-ran the survey with a different question • “Does it seem possible to you that the Nazi extermination of the Jews never happened, or do you feel certain that it happened?” • 1% said it seemed possible that the Holocaust had never occurred • Gallup also tested the differences in question wordings and found similar results
Question Order Effects 1980 Harris poll for the Democratic presidential primary asked at the beginning of the interview and again near the end whether they intended to vote for President Jimmy Carter or Senator Edward Kennedy • In between included questions on inflation and the economy, American hostages in Iran, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, all areas where Carter was weak. • Support for Carter at the end of the poll was sharply lower than support at the beginning. • It is likely that the intervening questions primed people to answer the second question about who they intended to vote for based on those concerns.
What can effect the accuracy of a poll? • Timing of the poll • As new developments occur people’s opinions change • Sample of the Universe • Universe: the set of people that a particular poll is meant to represent • For the sample to be accurate it must be • Random • Can’t be based on who goes to the CNN website • Representative • Needs to accurately reflect the universe • All registered voters • Voters ages 45-65 • Southern members of the republican party • Sampling error: the chance that the poll doesn't accurately reflect the universe
How to assess the accuracy of a poll • Identify the subject of the poll • Does the title indicate bias? • Identify the source of the poll • Candidate’s campaign? • Is the sample an accurate reflection of the universe? • What is the size? • How were participants chosen? • What is the margin of error? • If the poll states that 48% of people are in favor of going off the fiscal cliff and 52% are against and the margin of error is 6% does the poll give us any real figures? • Examine the question wording and order
Polling…helpful or harmful to our democracy? Why would these polls be considered inaccurate? - sample? - question wording?
Polls… Problems with polling • Bias? • Push polling • Unintended bias • Gallup poll and ANWAR question • Bandwagon? • Uninformed respondents? • Forced choice? • Intensity ? • How much do you really care about the issue? Any way to make polls more accurate?
Political Ideology • Political ideology: a more or less consistent set of beliefs about what policies the government should pursue • To what ends? • Many people do not fit securely into the liberal v. conservative model • Inconsistent views: • Voter may want the government to create more environmental regulations(liberal), yet want a larger defense budget (conservative)
Political Ideology Liberal conservative Originally = one who opposed excessive personal freedom and sought to restore the power of the state Now (response to FDR): favors a free market with less government intervention, emphasize religious faith, government needs to uphold moral values states’ rights over national supremacy, emphasis on national security (both internal and external) Criminals need to be punished, not rehabilitated, strong military • Originally = one who favors economic and personal liberty • Now( FDR to present day)= one who favors greater government regulation of the economy( without supervision business is likely to abuse power) , more vigorous efforts on behalf of the poor, minorities, and women , strong advocate of individual rights (rights of the accuses, access to abortion, same-sex marriage should be allowed
Political Ideology • Pure liberal: more economic regulation, less social regulation • want the gov’t to reduce economic inequality, regulate businesses, tax the wealthy more heavily, cure the economic causes of crime, allow abortions, protect the rights of the accused, and guarantee freedoms of speech and press • Favor experimentation and change
Political ideology • Pure conservative: less economic regulation, more social regulation • Cut back on the welfare state, allow for a free market, keep taxes low, curb forms of behavior they believe to be anti-social • Favor status quo
Political Ideology • Libertarian: less government regulation of the economy, less social regulation • Small, weak federal government with little control over the economy or personal choices of the public • The gov’t doesn’t have the right to intervene unless people are directly harming others • The gov’t should not intervene in the affairs of other nations • Low taxes, little regulation of business, no laws governing same-sex marriage, legalization of drugs…
Political Ideology • Populist: more government intervention in the economy, more social regulation • 1890s backlash to excesses of the gilded age • Government should reduce economic inequality, tax the wealthy more heavily, regulate businesses, permit school prayer, regulate personal conduct (against abortion, against same-sex marriage)
political Ideology? • What are you? • What about your parents? • How did you get your beliefs? • Political socialization: the process by which we acquire our political beliefs • Developed throughout our upbringing by our interaction with agents of socialization • Individuals and social institutions that help to shape our political beliefs and values
Political Socialization • Family: most important!!!!! first contact we have with political beliefs • Party preference generally reflects parental beliefs • Not directly taught, learned through conversation National Social Science Association study of high school students
Political socialization • Education: students acquire beliefs about liberty, equality, and democracy • Why does more education tend to = a more liberal view? • Your age • The older you are the more conservative you tend to be Show me a young Conservative and I'll show you someone with no heart. Show me an old Liberal and I'll show you someone with no brains. - Winston Churchill • Socio-economic status • Region you live in • Rural v. urban
Political socialization • Social groups • Gender • Race, ethnicity • Peer group • Religious affiliation • Work / employment • Small business owner v. labor union member
Political socialization • The media • Print media • internet • radio • TV: Changed dramatically over the past 50 years • 3 networks, similar info with similar points of view • Partisan networks • MSNBC / FOX
Political socialization • Opinion leaders: people who influence our political beliefs because of personality, expertise… • Walter Cronkite (election of 1968) • Rev. Jesse Jackson (African American community in the 70s and 80s) • Cable TV “talking heads” • Rachel Maddow (MSNBC) • Bill O’Reilly (FOX) • Oprah was one when it came to mainstream culture • The Oprah effect • Donald Trump would like to be one
Political socialization • Historic events( generational / cohort effect) • Great Depression • More people self identify as Democrat after the G.D. • Post –Vietnam Era • Helps to create re-emergence of conservatisms in America
Religion Religious affiliation has the most impact on where you stand on social issues!!
Political socialization: What has influenced you? 1 paragraph reflection: Pick 4 factors that influence political socialization, how have these factors influenced your political ideology? Due tomorrow
Cleavages in public opinion • Divisions in opinion that occur between groups • Gender gap: distinctive pattern of voting behavior reflecting the differing views of men and women • Women tend to be less militaristic, more likely to favor measures to protect the environment, more supportive of social and healthcare programs • Women more likely to vote democratic
Food for thought… • Should the government always reflect public opinion when creating policy? • When would it be beneficial to reflect the opinion of the majority? • When may it be harmful?
Republic v. Democracy when it comes to public opinion • Framers did not create, nor did they want a gov’t that reflected the whims of the people • Why? • Which “public” do we rely on? How much do they know about the issue? • Political Elites: persons with disproportionate share of political power • Tend to be more pure ideologically • Office holders, work on campaigns, lead interest groups, • Attentive Public: active interest in government and politics • AP Gov students, history teachers… • Mass Public: Little interest in government and politics • Most Americans…
What did the framers want? • Framers wanted our government to achieve certain goals, not directly reflect the will of the people • Goals of the framers: • Preamble • More perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, common defense, promote general welfare, secure liberty • How to best achieve these goals?: • Federalism • Limited government • Separation of powers • Checks and balances • Popular sovereignty through a Representative democracy
Public Opinion and policy: Consensus opinion v. divided opinion (when it is easy /difficult to reflect public opinion)
Who shapes public policy? • Political elites vs. general public: who should law makers pay attention to? • Opinion-policy congruence (rate at which government adopts policy based on majority wishes) is declining • Many believe this is due to the influence of the political elites • Interest groups lobbying members of congress • The media pushing and shaping certain policy issues • Intensely committed group that holds the minority viewpoint may attract more attention Is this good or bad???