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Unformatted text preview: Chapter 6 Public Opinion Chapter Outline Understanding Public Opinion 1. Public opinion is the term used to denote citizens attitudes about political issues, leaders, institutions, and events. Values (or beliefs ) are a persons basic orientation to politics. Political ideology refers to a complex set of beliefs and values that, as a whole, form a general philosophy about government. 2. Often for reasons associated with demographics, Americans opinions differ widely on a variety of issues. 3. Most people acquire their initial orientation to politics from their families. 4. The processes that form political beliefs and values are collectively called political socialization . Social institutions, including families and schools, help to shape an individuals basic political beliefs and values. Most people acquire their initial orientation to politics from their families. 5. Membership in both voluntary and involuntary social groups can affect an individuals political values. Consider the influence of personal experience, the influence of group leaders, and recognition of political interests in the context of a social group. 6. A persons level of education is an important factor in shaping political beliefs. 7. Conditions under which individuals and groups are recruited into political life help to shape political orientations. 8. Many Americans describe themselves as either liberal or conservative in political orientation. How We Form Political Opinions 1. Although ideologies shape political opinions on particular issues, they seldom fully determine ones views. 2. Political opinions are influenced by peoples underlying values, their knowledge of political issues, and external forces such as government, private groups, and the media. Measuring Public Opinion 1. Politicians and public officials use the results of public-opinion polls to help them make decisions. 2. In order to construct public opinion from surveys, the polling sample must be large, and the views of those included in the sample must accurately and proportionately reflect the views of the whole. 3. Push polling can be used to shape the opinion of the person responding to the poll. 4. The proliferation of polls may create an illusion of saliency : the impression that the topic of the poll is important to the public when actually it is not. Thinking Critically about Public Opinion and Democracy 1. Government policies in the United States are generally consistent with popular preferences. There are, however, always some inconsistencies. 2. Disagreements between opinion and policy come about on some issues, such as gun control, when an intensely committed minority defeats a more apathetic majority. Moreover, the American system of government is not designed to quickly transform changes in opinion into changes in government programs....
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- Spring '12