Chapter 8 Overview - Chapter 8 Overview Introduction Case Study-Landon Defeats Roosevelt The Voice of the People Public Opinion and Democracy

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Chapter 8 Overview Introduction: Case Study--Landon Defeats Roosevelt: The Voice of the People? Public Opinion and Democracy Chapter 8 looks at the role of public opinion in American democracy. In a democracy, citizens must communicate their preferences to officials who then respond to these desires. In order to measure how closely the United States approaches this democratic ideal, the authors begin by working at how accurately public opinion can be measured and, therefore, effectively communicated to policy makers. The chapter then probes the question of where Americans get their political opinions and the nature of those opinions. Finally, the chapter looks at the relationship between public opinion and public policy. The opening case study in the chapter discusses the 1936 Literary Digest's classic mistake of creating a biased sample, and thus incorrectly predicting the winner of the Landon- Roosevelt presidential race. The magazine had sent out ballot-surveys to primarily automobile and phone owners. During the Depression, cars/phones were luxuries and reflected wealthier/better educated voters or Republicans. Also, the participants in the poll were self-selected (not picked at random) and motivated, and consequently not representative of the wider population. Landon lost badly and so did the Digest. The magazine went under within a year after its embarrassing prediction. The debacle eventually led to the era of scientific polling. What is Public Opinion? Public opinion is the collective expression of attitudes concerning the prominent issues and actors of the day. How deeply public opinion should be considered has long been the subject of political debate. Measuring Public Opinion The measurement of public opinion began with straw polls and non-scientific methods. Only recently have reliable methods to measure public opinion been developed. For a public opinion poll to be reliable it must be based on a representative sample, randomly chosen from the population. Pollsters work very hard to insure that every member of the population has an equal chance of being part of the sample. They also attempt to ensure reliability of their results by paying specific attention to question wording, question type, and interviewer training. Such methods will allow pollsters and politicians to get an accurate view of the public. This makes the polls an integral part of modern American democracy, providing essential information upon which public officials can act. Political Socialization Political socialization refers to the process by which people learn about politics. Central to this process is the American family. The emotional bonds of the family lead children to develop attitudes similar to those of their parents. It is also true, however, that generations respond to experiences unique to themselves. This generational effect insures that societies will also experience generational transitions. Beyond the family, the schools
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are the most powerful agents of socialization. Their importance has placed them at the
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This note was uploaded on 01/17/2011 for the course POLITICAL 210 taught by Professor Amitage during the Spring '08 term at San Mateo Colleges.

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Chapter 8 Overview - Chapter 8 Overview Introduction Case Study-Landon Defeats Roosevelt The Voice of the People Public Opinion and Democracy

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