Public Opinion AP Government & Politics
Public opinion vs. democracy • Constitutional structure limits influence of public opinion • Not do what the people want, but do the six items in the Preamble of the Constitution
What is public opinion? • How people think and feel about specific things • People do not spend a lot of time thinking about politics • High levels of public ignorance
How Polling works? • Need to pose reasonable questions that are worded fairly • Example: • Community organizing is hard work. Do leadership trainings help you feel prepared for community organizing? • ANSWER: Much more prepared, slightly more prepared, somewhat more prepared, not prepared • The leadership trainings prepare me for community organizing. • ANSWER: Strongly agree, Agree, Disagree, Strongly Disagree * Which question and answer segment is the correct format?
How Polling Works? • Have to ask people about things for which they have some basis to form an opinion • You are not going to ask a person about an experience they did not experience • Random sampling is necessary to ensure a reasonably accurate measure of how the entire population thinks or feels. • Sampling error reflects the difference between the results of two surveys or samples
How Polling Works? • Exit polls- interviews with randomly selected voters conducted at polling places on Election Day-have proven to be quite accurate
Polling techniques • For populations over 500,000 people, pollsters need to make about 15,000 phone calls to reach 1,065 respondents, ensuring the poll has a sampling error of only +/-3. • Polling firms can save money by using smaller than ideal samples but this reduces the reliability of the poll • Low response rates harm the reliability of the poll
How Opinions Differ • Opinion saliency: some people care more about certain issues than other people do. • Opinion stability: the steadiness or instability of opinion on an issue • Opinion-policy congruence: the level of correspondence between government action and majority sentiment on an issue
How Opinions Differ • Political socialization: the process by which personal and other background traits influence one’s views about politics and government • Children tend to share parents’ political orientations • Majority of high school students know and support party affiliation of parents • Opinions vary based on race, religion, and gender • That doesn’t mean that all people in a group think alike
How Opinions Differ • 1/3rd of differences about political beliefs come from genetic sources. Only 1/10th come from family influence • Genetics can only explain half of our political beliefs, the remaining half is affected by our life experiences, friendships, and education. • In recent years, fewer people belong to a political party • Younger voters have less partisanship, more independent.
Cleavages in Public Opinion • Social class: not as big of an issue in USA as Europe • Democrats: unskilled workers, more than white-collar workers • Race/ethnicity • African-Americans more likely Democrats • Latinos more Democrats and Asians more Republican
Cleavages in Public Opinion • Region • South more accommodating to business interests, more conservative on different issues • Last Democratic president to gain a majority of votes in the South was Lyndon Johnson in 1964 • President Obama only received 30% of white votes in the South in 2008
Political Ideology • A more or less consistent set of beliefs about what policies government ought to pursue • Media usually labels these ideologies broadly • Liberal, Conservative, disadvantaged Democrats, etc. • Political elites have more interest in politics than most people, so they ma see more relationships among issues • They raise money and frame political issues • State norms by which to solve the issues