PSCI 2305.docx - PSCI 2305 01/18 Public opinion preference...

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PSCI 2305 01/18 Public opinion – “preference of the adult population on matters of importance to government” about “issues, candidates, officials, parties, groups” Salience – how important is the issue; o most issues are unimportant to most voters o Issues can move from obscurity to salience quickly sometimes when media seizes on an issue or uncovers a scandal o every issue is really important to some group salience & Visibility o Salience often overlaps with, but is not the same as visibility, or public awareness of an issue o On some issues salience and visibility are critical for governmental action, but sometimes individuals and organizations want to keep a low profile o Obscurity can be a good thing in the law for those it benefits, for example, here is a portion of our tax code Intensity of opinion – NRA – if people feel intensely about an issue they are more likely to vote, if people are more likely to vote, elected and unelected officials will be more likely to listen to them Direction – whether public favors or opposes/ approves of the job the president is doing, or disapproves
Knowledge of the issues – opinions may be more volatile or reflect a great lack of knowledge on some issues, such as domestic versus foreign policy issues. o What does the public think is fact, and what is actually the reality. Foreign Aid Stability – speed with which change occurs on opinion – presidential popularity changes quickly; partisan identification changes slowly o Change in support for recreational marijuana and gay marriage Why do we care about public opinion? o Popular sovereignty – we are a democracy! o Legislators as delegates or trustees? Is public opinion the same thing as the public interest? o Electrons o Planning for business and government 01/23 How Are Opinions Formed? Key beliefs usually have their roots in early life experiences and socialization Persistence – the resilience of an opinion over time o Ideology – a coherent collection of ideas about a given set of issues – we understand politics and events through the prism of our beliefs o Political party identification – which political party shares your values o What is fair, and what is unfair Primacy – those things that influence you first tend exercise a powerful influence. First impressions do matter! 2
Major influences o Family, Church – how often and how credibly do these institutions communicate about politics Peer o Schools – seek to promote values such as respect for authority, pride in government o Power of Authority – Milgram Experiments Location, support from others, absent authority figure reduces cooperation Peers o Voter turnout study on shaming – Michigan keeps track of who voted and data can have purchased for a free.

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