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GOVERNMENT FINAL ESSAYS 1. Do public polls actually measure the “will of the people”? Some say yes, but many others say no and point out the danger of reliance on opinion polls. How do public opinion polls shape American politics generally? What are the advantages and disadvantages of modern opinion polling? What is the difference between public opinion measured by opinion surveys and public opinion expressed in the electoral process? What is your opinion of public opinion? I. What is public opinion a. It is the term used to denote the citizens’ attitudes about political issues, events, and personalities. b. A way of measuring public opinion is through opinion polls. c. Opinions polls have become a core part of modern political life and are used extensively by politicians and public officials to help them make many decisions like: whether to run for office, what policies to support, how to vote on important legislation, and what types of appeals to make in their campaign. d. Whether public opinion polls actually measure the will of the people has been a controversial issue in society e. Obviously, assessing the public opinion in a democracy of 300 mill people is not an easy task. f. There are many advantages and disadvantages for modern opinion polling II. Advantages a. Public opinion polls enhance the democratic process by providing officials with a picture of what Americans think about current events. b. The efficiency of democracy will be increased because we can substitute specific knowledge of public opinion for guess work. c. Random sample polling can help in accurately predicting election results d. Polls provide information on the bases and conditions of voting decisions; They make it possible to assess trends in attitudes and the influence of ideology on attitudes e. Although it is believed that individual responses may be filled with errors, it has been hypothesized that the collective public opinion is stable, coherent, and meaningful and the general public can indeed be trusted when it comes to governing. III. Disadvantages: there is much potential for inaccuracy in polls a. First of all, there is a question of how wise the common people actually are. i. Many studies have showed that the average American knows very little about politics ii. This can mean that the public opinion is not adequate for the public good, and also that it can be more easily manipulated by forces that seek to shape the public opinion.
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b. Many polling errors exist which make opinion polls not very reliable: like selection bias, sampling errors, measurement errors, push polling, the illusion of saliency, and the bandwagon effect. c. Since some people do not answer calls from strangers, or refuse to answer the poll, poll samples may not be representative samples from a population. Because of this selection bias , the characteristics of those who agree to be interviewed may be markedly different from those who decline. That is, the actual sample is a biased version of the universe the pollster wants to analyze i.
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