Public Opinion • Objectives: • Examine term public opinion & determine why it’s so hard to define. • Describe factors that shape public opinion. • Bell Ringer: • Going beyond the simple explanation of cynicism, speculate about the reasons for the apathy most Americans feel toward their government and officials and their low levels of knowledge about both. • Agenda: • Public Opinion • Homework: • Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan • Find two articles one supporting and one opposing the plan • Summarize the plan and discuss the pros and cons of the plan • Chapter 6 Quiz 11/01
Public Opinion • Objectives: • Examine the term public opinion and determine why it is • so hard to define. • Describe factors that shape public opinion. • Bell Ringer: • Political scientist V.O. Key, jr. , once described public opinion as those expressions that governments “find it prudent to heed.” Do you agree with Key’s definition? Explain your answer. • Agenda: • End of the quarter dates • Public Opinion • Cain’s 9-9-9 plan • Homework: • Chapter 6 Quiz 10-31 Bell Ringers due 11-02 • Voter Perspectives due 11-02 TEST Unit 2 11-09 • Unit 2 Essay 11-11
Public Opinion • Objectives: • Examine the term public opinion and determine why it is • so hard to define. • Describe factors that shape public opinion. • Bell Ringer: • What do you believe are at least three reasons younger people are less likely to vote than older people? How would you remedy the problems of such low voter turnout among your peers. • Agenda: • Public Opinion • Cain’s 9-9-9 plan • Homework: • Chapter 6 Quiz Bell Ringers due Wednesday • Voter Perspectives due Friday TEST Unit 2 11-09 • Unit 2 Essay 11-11
Political culture: The ideas, beliefs, and values about citizens and government held by a population. • Political Ideology: • A coherent set of beliefs about politics, public policy, and public purpose
What is public opinion? • Views individuals hold about government, public • policy, society, and culture. • ·Major part of today’s American political landscape. • Reflects how people would like government to • act.
What is public opinion? • Since 1789, framers and most public officials have • had no formal or agreed upon way of determining or responding to public opinion. 4. May be based on: Facts about problems and solutions Emotions and crises Beliefs people adopt through process of political socialization
Characteristics of Public Opinion Latency: an opinion is held but not expressed Intensity/saliency: how strongly people feel on issues 1. NRA represents a minority position. But the intensity of their opposition to gun control is high. Many members determine who they’ll vote for in part due to a candidate’s position on gun control. This has made them one of America’s most powerful lobbying organizations. Stability: How little, or how much, public opinion changes over time
Political socialization • Process through which a person acquires knowledge, a set of political attitudes and orientations, and forms values and opinions about the political system and other social issues.
Agents of Socialization U.S. is one of the world’s most diverse countries, this makes it especially complex. Public opinion often skewed to a particular point of view (most in U.S. favor a capitalist economic system) Other public opinion can be almost equally divided between two extreme positions, generally little middle ground on these issues (Pro-life vs. pro- choice)
Family • Single most important socializing agent for most Americans • At home, kids learn basic attitudes toward authority, property, & rules of behavior · Most students see their views as being independent of their parents. In reality, there is still more political agreement between family generations
School and Peers ·Governments use schools in their attempt to instill a commitment to the basic values of the system. • Schools give children formal knowledge they will need to be good citizens · Schools are also centers of informal learning about other groups in society.
Benevolent Leader • Political socialization phenomenon where children learn that political figures of the U.S. are well-meaning, honest, and trustworthy early in their childhood. • Children’s stories of George Washington and • Abraham Lincoln
Mass Media ·Referred to as “the new parent” 1. T.V. displaces parents as main source of information as kids get older 2. T.V. most common source of political information
Mass Media ·Selective perception: notion that people tend to see only what they want to see · Selective retention: idea that people • remember what they agree with
Social GroupsPolitical efficacy is the feeling that: ·one can understand government and effectively participate in it · government will respond to citizens’ demands · dependent on the factors below 1. more important seems to be education: the higher the education, the higher the efficacy.
Effects of Diversity • Demographic patterns determined every ten years • when the census is conducted
Religion • ·Generally Jews more liberal than Catholics, • who are more liberal than Protestants • ·Jews and Black Protestants tend to be the • most liberal • ·White Protestants tend to be more conservative • (especially in the south) • ·Many agree with separation of church and state
Ethnicity • ·Blacks tend to be more liberal • ·Asians and Hispanics are a little less liberal • ·Blacks and Asians are more likely to vote than whites of their same income level • ·Cubans tend to be more conservative Many immigrants arrive from all over the world each year (government allows 630,000 new legal immigrants per year)
Ethnicity • The Immigrant Society • United States is a nation of immigrants. • Three waves of immigration: • Northwestern Europeans (prior to late 19th Century) • Southern and eastern Europeans (late 19th and early 20th centuries) • Hispanics and Asians (late 20th century)
Ethnicity • The American Melting Pot • Melting Pot: the mixing of cultures, ideas, and peoples that has changed the American nation • Minority Majority: the emergence of a non-Caucasian majority • Political culture is an overall set of values widely shared within a society.
Gender • ·Women favor government programs promoting • equality more than men. • ·More likely to support government social • welfare programs, less likely to support increases in military spending • ·No set gender generalizations, differences • between men/women typically issue specific.
Age • ·Younger people typically vote less, not really • involved in/knowledgeable about politics. • ·Senior citizens population growing tend to be • vocal and lobby for particular issues • 1.Social Security System is second only to • national defense as America’s most costly • public policy.
Age • The Graying of America • Fastest growing age group is over 65 • Potential drain on Social Security • Pay as you go system • In 1942, 42 workers per retiree • In 2040, 2 workers per retiree
Age • Political Learning Over a Lifetime • Aging increases political participation and strength of party attachment.
Region • ·Mountain states and Midwest generally more conservative • ·Eastern and Western states typically more liberal • ·Southerners generally more conservative (because of civil rights issues)
Region • The Regional Shift • Population shift from east to west • Reapportionment: the process of reallocating seats in the House of Representatives every 10 years on the basis of the results of the census
Education • ·In general, the higher the level of education attained, the higher one’s awareness and understanding of politics and political issues • ·More education an individual receives, the more likely that person is to hold liberal political positions • ·More education = more likely to vote, more tolerant of opposing opinions
Income • ·Divides people on their opinions: higher income, more likely to value freedom and less government control • ·Higher income often more supportive of liberal goals like racial & sexual equality • ·Poor white voters LEAST likely to vote in a typical election
Personal Beliefs • ·Americans more “me-oriented” than ever ·Agree with things that benefit us, disagree with those that don’t ·When policies don’t affect us personally, hard for us to form an opinion
Political Knowledge • ·Everyone has “opinions” on politics, many people, however short on “facts” 1. Speaker of the House 2. Chief Justice of the Supreme Court 3. Where other countries are located (Iraq, China, El Salvador)
Cues From Leaders • ·With lack of knowledge public opinion can be highly changeable at times 1. Rapid shifts are common when the public doesn’t have much information or when the information that they have is bad.
Public Opinion Polls Can be measured in different ways and the accuracy of the opinion depends on the measurement Public opinion is measured regularly through elections. Only measures it indirectly since voters are not always for, but sometimes against a candidate.
Public Opinion Polls • 4 out of 5 doctors surveyed recommend Product X. • If the election were held tomorrow, 43% of likely voters would vote for Roberta Jones. • 85% of all Americans prefer Brand Q over Brand Y. • 66% of parents surveyed think their children watch too much television. Where might you here or read a quote like this? What types of groups would be interested in information like this? What are some different ways groups could use this information? How might you be influenced if you read this quote?
Public Opinion Polls Modern-day polling tends to be moderately accurate “John Q. Public” thought to be the average man or woman on the streets. Term used by the media and pollsters when making blanket statements about the general opinion in the U.S.
Random/Representative Sample Polls • ·Everyone in the target population has an equal probability of being selected • ·Questions used are non-biased & do not give respondents any clues about what answers poll is looking for. • · Many polls conducted through telephone and • computer surveys
Telephone Polling ·Assuming the U.S. adult population is targeted group, sample size usually between 1,200 and 1,500 respondents • 1. As polling techniques become more advanced, • typical sample sizes decreasing ·Apply a sampling error (typically about +/- 3 points) • 1. Poll results give candidate 45% of vote. Actual • results could be 42 or 48%
Nonrandom Polls Not reliable representations of people’s true opinions. However: • Straw polls: unscientific attempts to measure public opinion. Often used by print and television news media, internet, even members of Congress. • 1. Results not reliable because there is no guarantee that the group or sample answering question is representative of whole population.
Nonrandom Polls Not reliable representations of people’s true opinions. However: • ·Many candidates rely on nonrandom polls quickly • conducted by their party. • ·Members of Congress often rely on letters, phone • calls, e-mails to indicate public opinion on some • issues. 1. Only represents views of people motivated enough to contact legislators.
Nonrandom Polls Way questions are worded can significantly influence reflected opinions. • 1.“Slanting” questions to get the answers they • want.
Political PollsPush Polls ·Attempt to lead subject to a specified conclusion ·Some designed to ‘push’ subjects away from candidates by linking them to negative events or traits in the question
Political PollsTracking Polls ·Continuous surveys that enable candidates and politicians to chart daily rise and fall in popularity ·Small samples • ·Reliability problems but may be a decent measure • of trends
Political PollsExit Polls ·Used by media to find out how people voted &why • ·Not random or representative, but if a large enough • proportion of voters is polled, responses can form basis for some generalizations. • ·Reliability problems but may be a decent measure • of trends
Use of Polls ·Informing the public ·Informing the candidate ·Informing office-holders ·Making election night predictions • Some officials closely follow public opinion and use it in making policy decisions • Others don’t trust it because it can change quickly and dramatically
Role of PollsSupporters ·Allows people to express their approval or disapproval of government ·Tool for democracy by which policymakers can keep in touch with changing opinions
Shortcomings of Polls In 1936, a Literary Digest poll underestimated the vote for FDR by 19% because of flawed polling. They drew their sample from phone books and motor vehicle records. During the Great Depression, people on those lists typically above the average income level, and therefore not representative of the public.
Shortcomings of Polls ·Sampling error ·Limited respondent options (narrow answer base) ·Lack of information (respondents don’t understand question) ·Intensity (learn people’s positions, but not how strong or weak it is) ·Elitism (deliberative polls have been accused of bias)
Role of PollsCritics ·Makes politicians more concerned with following than leading. ·Political scientist Benjamin Ginsberg argues polls weaken democracy because they let government think that it has taken public opinion into account when only passive (often ill-informed) opinions have been counted. ·“Bandwagon effect”: possible tendency of some voters or convention delegates to support the candidate who is leading in the polls and seems most likely to win.