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Final Study Guide

by: Kirsten Swikert

Final Study Guide Political Science 110

Kirsten Swikert
GPA 3.2

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Class notes for the final
American National Government
Jeffrey Budziak
Study Guide
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This 11 page Study Guide was uploaded by Kirsten Swikert on Friday May 6, 2016. The Study Guide belongs to Political Science 110 at Western Kentucky University taught by Jeffrey Budziak in Spring 2016. Since its upload, it has received 77 views. For similar materials see American National Government in Political Science at Western Kentucky University.

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Date Created: 05/06/16
The Role of the Public Opinion in a Democracy • Definition: collective attitudes and belies of individuals on issue (key word being collective) o Important because: group influence could change opinion, • How do you typically think of public opinion? o Is this individual or collective? o The case of deliberative polling Political Socialization Process • Socialization: process by which individuals develop opinions • Sources of opinion (socializing agents) o Family: 80% of individuals share the same political affiliations as their parents o Education: type, quality, quantity o Social groups: friend groups can frequently have just as great an influence as family o Genetics: opinions of fraternal twins correlate at .44 while opinions of identical twins correlate at .66 o Religion: regular religious service can shape individual opinion Limitations of Public Opinion • Public opinion is important for democracy o Has important limits o May be based on limited political knowledge • 90% of college graduates say representatives are more conservative • Potential explanations for low levels of political knowledge o Time: learning about politics takes a lot of time and effort o Interest: some people are uninterested in government o Stability: American politics, compared to many countries, is highly stable o Satisfaction: if we are happy are we less likely to be involved Measuring Public Opinion • Does the US spend too much or too little on foreign aid? o Less than 1% • Sampling error= +/- 2.5% • The process o Standardized surveys are typically how public opinion is gauged o Primary survey medium: phone calls § Random digit dialing: automated machines randomly dial numbers from a determined sampling frame § Sampling frame: might be a phone book or predetermined list of numbers • Important concepts for measuring o Population: all units the researcher is interested in understanding § Ex: US population, WKU students o Sample: all of the people from that population that participates in the survey § Almost all opinion polls rely on samples o Achieving a representative sample § Quota sampling: individuals are broken to mutually exclusive groups and selected based on their characteristics § Random sampling (probability sampling): all individuals relevant to the question having an equal likelihood at being sampled • Start measuring of how unlikely • Sampling error: random error caused by sampling rather than talking to the entire population (census) • You want about 1000 because more is not worth it (500=4.5%) o Selection bias: not everyone has an equal chance of being sampled § Biggest potential problem is generating a sample for a survey • How can this affect poll results? • Ex: PEW Research Center assessing the cell phone challenge o Measurement error: created as a result of poor construction of the tools designed to measure public opinion § 2 general types: • Question wording effects: the language used in the question leads to measurement error • Question order effects Political Parties: groups of united citizens seeking control of government to influence policy • Potential benefits of political parties in democracy o Organization: help us understand political life o Stability: prevent wild swings in the management of government o Transform preferences into policy: how public opinion translates into law can be tricky § Creation of a party platform o Provide shortcuts for voters: allows voters to overcome information problems • History of political parties (party eras) o George Washington requested that we didn’t develop into hardened political parties after he left office, almost right after he stepped down we formed two hardened political parties o Party eras: extended periods of relative political stability in which one party tends to control government o Important components of a party era § Realignment: long term shift in party allegiance by individuals and groups • Typically caused by parties changing positions on important political issues § Critical elections: elections signaling evidence of realignment • Characteristics of the American party system o The two party system: we have certain rules that make it likely that there will only be two political parties § 1 representative per district § Winner takes all voting in general elections o Third parties § Draw attention to specific issues o Because our parties pick candidates, they tend to be less extreme after picked • The republican party o Were more supportive of civil rights and federal power in the 1860s o Today they believe the opposite, less supportive of expanding rights claims and skeptical of federal power, they’ve become more conservative § Has almost always been more favorable to business and corporate interests • The democratic party o Formed as a commitment to states rights and was skeptical of civil rights o Opposite is true today, it is now an umbrella for many subgroups o Has always contained an element of populism generally missing from the republican party • Interest groups in America o Interest groups: organizations with a common goal trying to influence political goals from the outside § PTAs, neighborhood association, etc. o Nearly 3/4ths of adult Americans belong to something that can be defined as an interest group o Advantages: § Overcome collective action problem: allow people with similar concerns to work together § Resource advantages: allows similarly minded people to pool their resources together § Create leadership: by forming an organization, individuals now have leaders upon whom they can rely o Limitations of interest group participation § Free rider problem: policy-oriented interest groups can bring changes that benefit all (not just group members) § Address with selective benefits when possible o History of interest groups: § Have played a prominent role in American history § Participation of interest groups has varied over time • Pre-civil war: very limited participation • 1880s: large expansion in participation • 1960s: second wave of interest group expansion o Types of interest groups: § Interest groups differ by motivation for joining • Solidarity interest groups: join for social benefits; motivation for many local interest groups • Material interest groups: join for tangible benefits; motivation for specialized interest groups o Interest group politics § Interest groups attempt to influence the political process primarily through lobbying • Attempting to influence the outputs of government, primarily through campaign donations § Types: • Indirect (grassroots) lobbying: interaction with the general public to encourage officials o Interest groups also engage a variety of tactics to try to motivate constituents to put pressure on their representatives § Direct mail: send mail to voters § Distribute fliers § Phone calls/emails/social media o Primary goal: to motivate voters to threaten their representatives • Direct lobbying: direct interaction with public officials o Federal election laws place strict limits on how much any individual or group can donate to a candidate o Political Auction Committees § Specialized organization within interest groups devoted to raising money § Can pend money much more freely on electioneering outcomes than can typical interest groups • The supreme court’s decision in citizen united vs. federal elections commission greatly expanded the power of PACs § Interest groups continue to influence officials once they’re elected • They work hard to influence Congress and the bureaucracy • The iron triangle Congress Activists tax regulat on and pecial avors Bureaucracy Political Participation • Voting is the single most important action taken by citizens of democracies • Purpose of voting o Obvious § Selection of leaders: republican form of government requires elections § Political direction: influences the types of policies created o Less obvious § Generate political efficiency: make citizens more satisfied with their government • Voting has not always played such a central role in American democracy o Eligible voters at the founding of the united states § 18 § Male § Owned land: people who owned land were directly impacted by the outcome § White § Religion (North Carolina: Protestant) o There are always more eligible women voters than men (jail, men die earlier, etc.) The Cost of Voting • Probability of voting= pB-C+B o P= probability of vote mattering multiplied by B= benefit of candidate winning o Almost impossible for an individual to actually see tie-breaking vote o Other factors affecting our assessment of “mattering” § Electoral competitiveness § Candidate satisfaction • Collective action --> free riding • Costs can be measured in terms of time and effort o Practical costs associated with voting § Voting during the week § Travelling to the polls § Learning about issues o Legal requirements § Voter identification laws: laws that require some form of identification in order to vote § Voter registration requirements: requirement that citizens include their names on central registry for the purpose of being allowed to vote • Why do we vote o Political socialization: we are socialized to believe that voting is important o Collective action: many realize that while their individual vote by meaningless, collective action can effect real change • Those individuals that do not turn out to vote are not a random sample of the population o Characteristics of people who regularly vote § Education § Age- care more § Income o Policies are targeted towards education, older, better income citizens who are voters because they vote The Role of Partisanship in a Democracy • Party identification: voter affiliation with a specific political party o Partisanship: strength of this relationship • Potential problems created by partisanship o What are some problems created by partisan identification? • Potential benefits of partisanship o Predictive: the greatest predictor of vote choice in partisan elections o Stability: partisan identification tends to be highly stable over time o Variable in strength: some individuals vote their party identification in all circumstances, others do not The Causes of Vote Choice • Long term factors: permanent or enduring characteristics that are largely or entirely out of control of the candidates or parties o The choices made by voters are typically shaped by long term factors o Examples: § Voter personal characteristics: gender, race, etc. § Voter appraisal of the economy: prospective vs. retrospective appraisals of the economy, pocketbook vs. sociotropic • Prospective: looking toward future economic conditions • Retrospective: looking back at past economic conditions • Pocketbook: looking at your own personal health • Sociotropic: looking at national economic health § Incumbency • Short term factors: changing characteristics that are largely within the control of candidates or parties o Examples: § Candidates: what characteristics of a candidate are most important § Policy proposals: promise candidates make if elected into office • Substantive issues: issues devoted to the distribution of resources o Mostly economic in nature • Symbolic issues: issue concerning symbolic importance of a value o Same sex marriage • Comparing the short term and long term factors o A few questions to consider § Which does the media believe is more important: short term or long term factors § Which do you believe is more important • Why? Recruitment of Candidates • The “invisible” primary o Potential candidates begin to take informal steps suggesting a run for the presidency well before the election cycle begins § Many begin as early as the midterm elections 2 years before the next general election o During this period, potential candidates seek donations to fund their campaign and support from elite party members § Political science research has suggested that those who win the “invisible primary” are most likely to win the actual nomination • Does “the party” decide? o Vox: political scientists think “the party” will stop Trump, they shouldn’t be so sure The Nomination Process • Primaries and caucuses o Candidates are officially chosen by political parties o State political parties have adopted two primary mechanisms for selecting those candidates § Caucus: a meeting of party supporters that leads to the selection of delegates § Primary: a preliminary election where voters choose a nominee o States also regulate who can participate in the nomination process § Open primary/caucus: any registered voter to participate in any party’s nomination process § Closed primary/caucus: only registered party members can participate in the party’s nomination process • The nominating convention o State caucus/primary § States are choosing which delegates to send to the state’s nominating convention • Delegates: individuals who actually vote for party nominee at convention • If candidate X wins Kentucky, we will send delegates who must vote for that candidate on the first ballot o Known as pledged delegates o Nominating convention § Meeting of delegates from all states to formally pick a nominee • To win nomination, a nominee must win 50% of the total delegates § Historically (pre 1968) delegates selected almost exclusively by party leaders • Superdelegates: Democratic Party continues to assign various party leaders as delegates (20%) who are not bound to any specific candidate The Role of Media in Democracy • Media is frequently said to play a special role in democracy o What is so special about the media? Good information and bad information • Medium (singular for media): intervening substance through which something else is transmitting or carried on Source of News • Historical o Print journalism (newspaper) represented the primary, if not exclusive media source o Most early newspapers were overly partisan, frequently sponsored by political partied (true until after the civil war) • By the 1930s, radio began to supplant newspapers as the primary source of news o The portability of radio fit squarely into the changing of American culture • Just as importantly, sources of news are becoming more diverse o We look for bias • The media has the opportunity to influence public opinion in a variety of ways o Agenda setting: raise the salience of particular stories or political issues o Priming: emphasizes specific attention to one part of a story, causing a change in the viewer’s perception o Framing: emphasizes particular aspects of a story or event Potential Biases in the Media • The media tends to have constant types of biases o Commercial bias: coverage decision made based on what will attract an audience o Story selection bias: news in overwhelmingly negative, conflict-oriented and pessimistic o Professional bias: few reporters are specific experts on any particular policy • Media coverage of political campaigns tend to be dominated by several characteristics o Horse-race coverage: focus on primarily on who is winning the election o Sound bites: cover short moments of the campaign o Scandal watching: potential scandals receive disproportionate coverage The Media and Ideological Bias • Many Americans argue that media is bias politically • Possible reasons for some ideological bias o Selection effect: media members are not a random sample of the population at large § Some professions simply attract certain political ideologies • Preference for change: media members have professional reasons to favor change • TAKE AWAY: the amount of bias you perceived is based largely on your strength of partisanship


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