Chapter 10 notes

Chapter 10 notes - Chapter 10 Public Opinion(from The Logic...

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Chapter 10: Public Opinion (from The Logic of American Politics ) • One definition that has endured for three decades states that public opinion consists of those opinions held by private persons which governments find it prudent to heed .” -- V.O. Key • Democracies differ from other forms of government in terms of which persons government finds it necessary to heed. • In the United States, potential voters and those who can sway voters are most critical because of our use of elections. • Public opinion in America has always been treated as a political force to be alternatively shaped, mollified, or exploited. • When the public demanded a bill of rights, political leaders bent to its will and ensured ratification. • The leaders of various movements have all fought to mold public opinion and then to serve as agents for its political expression. • Abolition of slavery. • Suffrage for blacks and women. • Any incident that inflamed public sentiment was fair game for exploitation. • What about contemporary events? • Clinton administration. • George W. Bush administration. • Then and now, interest groups sought to mobilize public opinion as a weapon in the policy wars. • Modern efforts to measure, shape, and exploit public opinion have spawned two linked industries. • One is devoted to sounding out the public’s views on an endless array of issues. • The other is devoted to marketing ideas, policies, and politicians. • Before the advent of scientific polling, politicians had to gauge public opinion haphazardly:
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• They relied on information supplied by editorials, pamphleteers, local leaders, and so on. • Straw polls were used by newspapers and magazines to gauge public opinion. But, generally, these were badly biased. Why? • Today, public opinion is most commonly measured by asking questions of a carefully selected sample of adults. • Basic techniques: • Select a random sample of the population. • Ask the people in the sample some appropriate questions about their views. • Count up their answers. • The larger the sample, the more closely the sample’s answers will reflect the answers the pollster would get if everybody in the population could be asked. • Does a sample get better the larger and larger it grows? • To a point. After about 1200 to 1500 the rate of improvement of accuracy actually declines. • With a sample of 1200 to 1500 the margin of error is usually three percentage points. • A truly random sample of any population is rarely feasible. Why? • Another problem associated with polling is sample bias. • Opinion polling has grown into a huge industry, producing an endless stream of information about the public’s views on almost any conceivable matter. • Public opinion is important because of its effect on political behavior, particularly
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Chapter 10 notes - Chapter 10 Public Opinion(from The Logic...

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