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US government notes - What is Public Opinion Chapter 5 what...

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1/28/08 What is Public Opinion Chapter 5 what is public opinion the aggregation of people's views about issues, situations, and public figures important to democracy -why? -need not be actively expressed -law of anticipated reactions -public opinion influences government even though it does so indirectly and passively n=sample N=Population Sources of Public Opinion -socialization -personal experiences -self-interest -education - political efficacy -reference groups -the media Measuring Public Opinion -Sampling error -the error that arises in the public opinion survey as a result of relying on a representative, but small, sample of the larger population -Margin of error -the answers provided by a random sample of 1500 Americans on any political question would fall within 3 percentage points of national opinion 95 percent of the time -selection bias -the error that occurs when a sample systematically includes or excludes people with certain attitudes -if a survey has selection bias it will NOT be representative of the larger population -of no scientific value -Measurement error -the error that arises from attempting to measure something as subjective as opinion -opinions are hard to quantify -answers can vary dramatically depending on how a question is asked -question wording can be: -confusing, lading, or oversimplified The 3 M’s of descriptive statistics - Mean - the mathematical average of a sample - Median - the numerical center, or middle point of a sample - Mode - the value within the sample that occurs with the greatest frequency Characterisitics of public opinion -public opinion is uniformed
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-on many issues people have little information, here and in other countries as well. -information costs are high these are the time and mental efforts required to absorb and store information, whether from conversations, personal experiences, or the media Public opinion uninformed but some people do better… o Issue publics: group of people particaularly affected by, or concerned with, a specific issue These people find relevant information valuable and can gather it more cheaply o Why does an ignorant ameica hinde measurement of public opinion? o People answer the questions whether they know anything or not 1/30/08 Characteristics of Public Opinion Many of the opinions expressed in polls are not strongly held o Public may say one thing Public opinion is not ideological o Ideology: A system of beliefs in which one or more organizing principles connect the individual’s views on a wide range of issues Political elites tend to have well-structured ideologies. Mass public: ordinary citizens for whom political involvement is limited – usually are NOT ideological Public Opinion is Inconsistent o Sentiments on policy do not always match the principles that people claim to endorse o May not provide a clear mandate Confuse the political debate Why this inconsistency? o
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US government notes - What is Public Opinion Chapter 5 what...

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