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Chapter Summary10 - because they could spend their time...

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Chapter Ten: Public Opinion Study Chapter Summary Politicians and the media often point to polls or surveys as examples of public opinion on issues. In many cases, however, polls and surveys more closely reflect the opinions and methods of their sponsors than they do any actual "will of the public." For a variety of reasons, determining what "the people" want or believe is not as simple as the final poll numbers might imply. Although scientific methods of polling have greatly reduced methodological errors in polling, detecting stable or "informed" opinions at the individual level is still difficult. People construct attitudes based on their own personal experiences as well as the indirect experiences passed on through socialization. Most individuals have little reason to construct organized, well-informed political ideologies, primarily
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Unformatted text preview: because they could spend their time better doing other things. For this reason, they are ambivalent on most issues and can shift their stated positions because of small changes in survey wording or framing. Aggregate public opinion, on the other hand, seems to be much more stable and intelligible than individual public opinion. The stability of public opinion can be attributed in large part to the mediating role of opinion leaders, who serve as easy cue-givers and information sources for the unengaged public. The stable, shared consensus of basic political values helps make politics possible, while the policy disagreements within public opinion make politics necessary....
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