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Chapter 1 Notes: Public Opinion

by: Sarah Gossett

Chapter 1 Notes: Public Opinion PS 473G

Marketplace > University of Kentucky > Political Science > PS 473G > Chapter 1 Notes Public Opinion
Sarah Gossett
GPA 2.8

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Theories, Polls, Attitudes, and Survey Challenges
Public Opinion
Dr. Peffley
Class Notes
public opinion, political science
25 ?




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This 5 page Class Notes was uploaded by Sarah Gossett on Tuesday September 27, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to PS 473G at University of Kentucky taught by Dr. Peffley in Fall 2016. Since its upload, it has received 7 views. For similar materials see Public Opinion in Political Science at University of Kentucky.

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Date Created: 09/27/16
Chapter 1 Classical Democratic Theory  Jefferson, Rousseau  Declaration of Independence  “Citizens are the government.”  Problems: o Slaves outnumbered citizens o Would not work in a large, diverse modern nation-state Democratic Elitism  Plato - “Cave Allegory” o Shadows on the wall (put on by media)  The Framers – “Federalist Papers” (49, 71)  “The passions ought to be controlled and regulated by the government.”  Institutional Barriers and rely on Elites to prevent pure democracy, majority tyranny, and to maintain a stable democracy. Participatory Democracy  Mass political participation  “Political Enlightenment” o Creates incentive to be informed o Increases political tolerance toward one’s domestic enemies  Gone Wrong  Arab Spring  Human Nature Views: o Malleable; improvement possible o “Enlightenment” through mass education and participation o John Dewey  “To cure the ills of democracy, need a stronger dose of democracy.” Public Opinion vs. Public Judgement Pluralism as a political philosophy is the recognition and affirmation of  diversity within a political body, which permits the peaceful coexistence of  different interests, convictions and lifestyles.  Polls  Multiple polls on the same topic… different answers?  Knowledge of public opinion is a powerful resource for candidates, politicians, PR and marketers, and the Media, who commission hundreds of polls on a daily basis.  Understanding public opinion is often difficult o BREXIT  polls done before – people leaned toward staying  Before focusing on methods of measuring public opinion  What is an attitude? o Why are they so hard to measure accurately and precisely? o When are they more (less) likely to predict behavior?  Related concepts  How do attitudes and related concepts fit together, or don’t they?  Definitions: o Attitude* (elevation) - a psychology tendency to evaluate an object with a degree of favor or disfavor  Political attitude – refers to political object, usually o Public opinion - o Beliefs* (cognition) - o Behavioral Intentions* - o Values o Emotions o Belief system *There is no necessary congruence between these three different concepts.  PROPERTIES OF ATTITUDES 1. They are inferred, internal, and are measured with error a. Measurement errors i. Random  Cancel out on average  Vagaries of language, interviewer coughs ii. Non-random  Create systematic bias  Social desirability bias b. Stable and dynamic components 2. They help explain consistency in behavior, defined broadly, over time and across situations 3. They have important consequences: a. Guide behavior under certain circumstances b. Mediate perceptions under certain circumstances i. Obama approval ii. What Democrats and Republicans, Liberals and Conservatives notice, see, and remember and interpret.  Attitude Functions  Different functions affect the pliability of attitudes and whether they are subject to change o Self-expression o Knowledge o Social Adjustment o Utilitarian – when one party dominates an area, the opposite of yours, claiming that it is yours just to have a chance at office.  Not all surveys are created equal, and NO survey is perfect!  Readers should have enough information about the survey to access knowledge  Poll Websites:  538  Upshot  Huffington Post Challenges of Survey Research  Survey Data o Consumers need to ask more questions about how surveys were conducted. o Readers should have enough information about the survey to assess if knowledge claims are warranted. o Poll Websites:  538  Upshot  Huffington Post  Bad Polls o Landon vs. FDR (1936) o Dewey vs. Truman (1948) o Al Gore vs. Bush (2000) o Brexit (2016)  Online vs. Telephone (anonymity)  Logic of Surveys: Sampling Error o Randomization ensures, in the long run, the sample mean is equal to the population mean  All biases—including those we don’t think about—are randomly distributed and cancel out in long run. o Standard error (margin of error) captures random sampling error  This is the methods disclosure in the Fox survey.  The smaller the sample size, the larger the error.  Margin of Error = sigma/sqrt(N) o N denotes sample size and sigma denotes standard deviation.  If 67% support Trump in the sample, and out sample size is about 900-1000, our sample estimates have +/-3% sampling error:  In repeated sampling, we would expect the true level of support for Trump to fall between 67% and 70% in 95 out of 100 samples.  Many individual election polls are within sampling error.  Coverage Error: Failure to give some persons in target population an equal probability of selection o Younger generations only have cell phones; if call surveys only contact landlines then they are only surveying an older population.  Biased sample  Random Sampling Error: The survey is administered to a much smaller  sample, not the whole target population  Nonresponse Error: occurs when the individuals invited to take the survey do  not actually take the survey because they’re hard to reach or refuse to  participate.  o Younger generations do not answer unknown numbers, or they hang  up on survey calls o  Web Surveys  o Gfk and YouGov o Costly! o Multimedia capabilities o Easy to administer o Evidence of reduced social desirability Measurement Error  Concepts need to be defined and operationalized before any relationship is  examined o What is “prejudice” and how is it best measured?  Due more to respondents: o Social desirability bias o Memory o Knowledge o Satisficing – using minimal mental effort to answer questions  Due more to interviewer/survey questions:  Framing Effects o Confusing, leading, or double barreled questions are some examples  o Cues in the questions or survey influence how the question overall is  interpreted by respondents Concept - Definition Measurement error (Validity, Reliability) Indicator (Survey Item)  Theory of Survey Response o For many survey questions on issues people haven’t thought a lot  about, people construct their answers/attitudes on the spot. o Three Axioms  Ambivalence: Most people possess opposing considerations  on most issues, that is, considerations that might lead them to  decide the issue either way  Accessibility: the accessibility of any given consideration  depends on a stochastic sampling process, where  considerations that have been recently thought about are  somewhat more likely to be samples.  Response: Individuals answer survey questions by averaging  across the considerations that happen to be salient at the  moment of response, where salience is determined by the  accessibility axiom.


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