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Public Opinion

Public Opinion

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Public Opinion

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  1. Public Opinion Magruder Chapter Eight

  2. The Formation of Public Opinion

  3. What is Public Opinion? • Public Opinion is those attitudes held by a significant number of persons on matters of government and politics • Public Opinion is made up of a wide variety of expressed group attitudes

  4. Factors That ShapePublic Opinion • The Family • Political socialization begins within the family, where children learn basic attitudes toward authority, property, and rules of behavior • Adult political behavior is firmly based on attitudes and values formed in the home in early childhood

  5. Factors That ShapePublic Opinion • The Schools • Schools give children formal knowledge that they will need to be good citizens • Schools are also centers of informal learning about other groups in society

  6. Factors That ShapePublic Opinion • Opinion Leaders • Opinion leaders are people who have more than the usual amount of influence on the attitudes of others • They include politicians, members of the press, and professional people

  7. Factors That ShapePublic Opinion • The Mass Media • The mass media, including television, radio, film, books, magazines, and newspapers, have a large influence on public opinion • Television alone is a major influence on people’s daily lives

  8. Factors That ShapePublic Opinion • A Mix of Factors • No one factor by itself shapes any person’s political opinion • The factors that are most important vary with the issue being considered

  9. The Measurement of Public Opinion

  10. The Challenge of Measuring Public Opinion • Measurement through elections – Election results are at best only indicative of the vague, general direction of public opinion • Measurement Through Interest Groups – Interest groups make public opinion known to political leaders, but the strength of their support is difficult to gauge

  11. The Challenge of Measuring Public Opinion • Measurement Through the Media – Contrary to what is often said, the media are not accurate mirrors of public opinion • Measurement Through Personal Contacts – Public officials keep in touch with large numbers of people, but these contacts do not necessarily help them to gauge public opinion

  12. Polls • The Best Measure of Public Opinion – Public opinion polls have been used for more than 100 years but were not reliable until the 1930s • Scientific Polling – Efforts to gauge public opinion through scientific polling date from the 1930s and have become increasingly sophisticated

  13. Polls • The Polling Process – In order to take a scientific poll, pollsters must (a) define the universe to be surveyed, (b) construct a sample, (c) prepare valid questions, (d) select and control the means by which a poll will be taken, and (e) report their findings to the public

  14. Evaluation of Polls • Polls are generally reliable and help to focus attention on public issues • It is difficult for polls to measure the intensity, stability, or relevance of the opinions they study

  15. Limits on the Force of Public Opinion • Public opinion is only one among many influences on public policy • Constitutional guidelines, such as the separation of powers and the Bill of Rights, are designed to check the power of the majority in order to protect minority rights

  16. The Mass Media and Politics

  17. An Overview of the Mass Media • Television – Television is the principal source of political information for about 80 percent of the population • Newspapers – Newspapers, which can carry much more in-depth information than television news, are the second most important source of political information in the United States

  18. An Overview of the Mass Media • Radio – Since its advent in the 1920s, radio has played a major role in informing Americans • Magazines – Major news magazines and journals of opinion are important sources of political news and comment

  19. The Media’s Impact on Politics • The Public Agenda – The issues on which the media focus determine what the public thinks about, if not what it thinks • Electoral Politics – Television has influenced political campaigns by making candidates more concerned about public “image” and less dependent on party organizations than ever before

  20. Limits On Media Influence • Most Americans do not follow public affairs closely • Those who do follow politics tend to select their sources of information to reflect and bolster opinions they already hold • Lack of public interest in politics limits the amount of news that commercially oriented mass media are able to present