POLS Chapter 10 Notes
POLS Chapter 10 Notes POLS 1101
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This 12 page Class Notes was uploaded by Kyla Brinkley on Wednesday October 28, 2015. The Class Notes belongs to POLS 1101 at University of Georgia taught by Ryan Bakker in Summer 2015. Since its upload, it has received 30 views. For similar materials see American Government in Political Science at University of Georgia.
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Date Created: 10/28/15
Kyla Brinkley POLS 1101 Notes Fall 2015 Bakker Chapter 10 Public Opinion a What is Public Opinion i Public opinion those opinions held by private persons which governments find it prudent to heed ii Every gov democratic or otherwise has to pay attention to public opinion in some way iii Democracies focus on heeding potential voters and those who can sway potential voters at certain times ie elections iv Our constitutional guarantees make it possibleessential for political leaderspolicy advocates to try to shape amp mobilize public opinion on behalf of their causes v Ex purpose of The Federalist was to sway educated public opinion in favor of the Constitution vi Political parties arose from ambitious politicians seeking to squeeze political advantage from whatever issue excited the pe0pe 1 Antimasonic Party 19305 a Hysteria secret societies 2 American KnowNothing Party 1850s a AntiIrishcatholic immigrants vii Other movements tried to mold public opinion pamphlets speeches demonstrations novels etc viii Modern efforts to shape measure exploit public opinion 1 Scientific polling a Devoted to sounding out the public on an endless array of issues b Tool for systematically investigating the Opinions of ordinary people 2 Public relations a Devoted to marketing ideas policies and politicians b Measuring Public Opinion i Select random sample of population of interest ask people in sample some appropriate questions about their views count answers ii Larger sample more closely resembles entire population vi vii viii xi Large sample also has less improvement in accuracy Margin of error sample s division on a typical question will fall within 3 percentage points of the entire population s division The approximate formula for the margin of error doesn t require knowledge of the size of the entire population only the size of the sample Truly random sample rarely feasible no single directory where everyone is listed and can be given a perfectly equal chance of being selected 1 Ex polls using random landline phone numbers don t reach those without phones or those who only use cell phones 2 Also not everyone is willing to answer questions amp this group of people is usually very different a Common solution is to weigh responses of people in underrepresented demographic categories more heavily 3 Respondents also may not always understand poll questions or answer them incorrectly a Fit between words and concepts used in questions and how people actually think about issues is never perfect b Opinion polling has grown into vast industry w endless stream of information about public s views about almost any matter presidents more reliant on grassroots public support for winning policy battles 1 line between campaigning amp governing blurred president has no monopoly on tools of public persuasion 1 All large modern institutions gov agencies political parties corporations universities employ public relations specialists whose job is to present the organization in the best possible light Institutions also promote the expression of public opinion Modern techniques for molding or measuring public opinion have contributed to the nationalization of American politics National opinion emerged only as an aggregate of diversely measured local opinions 1 Advent of social polling has made it possible to measure and therefore to treat public opinion as a national phenomenon xii The work to measure and shape public opinion has helped individual citizens to act collectively c The Origins of Public Opinion i Attitudes 1 Attitude an organized and consistent manner of thinking feeling and reacting with regard to people groups social issues or more generally any event in one s environment a Combines feelings beliefs thoughts amp predispositions to react in a certain way 2 People respond in ways that express the underlying attitudes evoked by the choices they face 3 Individuals differ widely in the attitudes they bring to bear on political choices 4 People also differ in how strongly they hold attitudes ii Ideologies 1 Ideologies a comprehensive integrated set of views about government and politics a Promote consistency among political attitudes by connecting them to something greater a more general principle or set of principles 2 American ideological labels liberal and conservative a Liberals typically favor using gov to reduce economic inequalities champion the rights of disadvantaged groups such as racial minorities amp women and tolerate a more diverse range of social behaviors b Conservatives distrust gov and have greater faith in private enterprise amp free markets but they are more willing to use gov to enforce traditional moral standards i Favor larger military amp more assertive pursuit of national selfinterest ii Advocate lower taxes esp on investment income to stimulate growth amp restrict gov s capacity to finance social welfare programs 3 Some pe0ple are libertarians prefer to minimize gov regulation of social amp economic behavior amp oppose any military involvement except direct defense of US territory 4 Ideologies don t guide the political thinking of most citizens nor do the cpinions most people express fall neatly into one ideological category or the other a Apply them more to political issuesfigures than themselves 5 Core values moral beliefs held by citizens that underlie their attitudes toward political and other issues As integral parts of an individuals identity these beliefs are stable and resistant to change a Attitudes that arise from the same core value will be in harmony but because most people maintain more than one attitudes also can conflict iii Partisanship 1 For most Americans the political attitude that shapes opinions and organizes other political attitudes is disposition toward political parties Large majority identify as Republican or Democrat Party identification can be emphasized a Psychologically Party preference can be seen as an element of personal identity b Practically people identify with certain party because have learned that the politicians produce preferred results Party cues are imperfect Party remains a default cue for many voters unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise 6 Americans interpret political phenomena in ways that favor the preferred party 7 Responses to political actors and events have become increasingly polarized along party lines over the past 30 years Party identification affects beliefs amp opinions Attitudes introduce bias into perceptions amp interpretations of political information because JON 01h COCK people pay more attention to sources and info that confirm rather than challenge their beliefs 10 More ambiguous situation more prior attitudes like party identification shape beliefs iv Acquiring Opinions 1 Attitudes derive from the practical experience of growing up amp living in the social and political world 2 People adopt the values and beliefs that pay off in some way 3 Political socialization the process by which citizens acquire political attitudes and beliefs a Takes place during childhoodyoung adulthood but new experiences can alter attitudes at any stage of life 4 Attitudes are influenced by personal experiences but not dominated by them influenced more by collective experiences a Ex most people base evaluations of president s economic performance on their beliefs about the national economy not on their own family s economic fortunes b Widely shared experiences give rise to the political ideas and opinions that are advanced by the various agents of political socialization c Some experiences fix political thinking for generations i Ex segregation v Information 1 People tend to develop more complex richly informed attitudes only when the payoff is greater than the cost of doing so 2 People who aren t in settings with many political ideas don t have opportunity or incentive to developed informed s0phisticated political attitudes 3 People are cognitive misers reluctant to pay cost of acquiring information with no 4 Details of policy and lowerlevel political figures go unnoticed by most of the public vi a Ignorance doesn t prevent pe0ple from expressing opinions but uninformed Opinions aren t very stable b Answers can be changed with question wording i Poll questions are sometimes formulated to elicit maximum support for the views advocated by their sponsors Framing 1 Ambivalence a state of mind produced when particular issues evoke attitudes and beliefs that pull in opposite directions a Response to pollster s questions depends on the context recent events reference to potent symbolsimages questions from earlier in the survey 2 Framing explains how both the mass media and political campaigns can affect people s expressed political opinions a Messages sent by media and candidates don t have to change underlying attitudes to change expressed opinions b Just frame issue in way that draws out one response rather than the other 3 Priming occurs when readers amp watchers of news that relates to the criteria with which we evaluate candidates or elected leaders are influenced by what the press covers in a very specific way it influences what they think about not what they think d Is Public Opinion Meaningful Despite deficiencies uncovered by survey research public opinion continues to play a crucial amp effective part in American politics because a variety of formalinformal political institutions give it shape and force Aggregate public opinion the sum of all individual opinions More stable and coherent than individual Opinions 1 Stability of Aggregate Public Opinion a When there is no obvious reason to expect significant change the distribution of opinion is highly stable b When substantial changes in distribution of public opinion occur they reflect intelligible historical trends or responses to changed conditions c Opinion switches between liberal and conservative moods i Changes in mood bring about changes in policy d Aggregate opinion varies in coherent ways over the short term e Aggregate partisanship the distribution or percentage of the electorate that identifies with each of the political parties i Shifts with changes in economic conditions political events amp presidential approval f When public opinion isn t stable its movements can be explained by realworld events 2 Opinion Leadership a Measurement error uncertainties in public cpinion as revealed by responses to polls that arise from the imperfect connection between the wording of survey questions and the terms in which people understand and think about political objects b A small segment of the public forms opinions by paying attention to political eventsissues and the uninformedinattentive majority free rides when forming opinion by taking cues from the opinion leaders c Opinion leadership gives public opinion rationality and coherence and arises naturally as people respond to different incentives d People are uninformed because better information holds no promise of a better outcome because the views of any single individual are unlikely to be decisive e We avoid information costs by delegating Opinion formation to we hope reliable agents f Cognitive shortcut a mental device allowing citizens to make complex decisions based on a small amount of information For example a candidate s party label serves as a shortcut by telling voters much about his or her positions onissues g Many political issues go unnoticed except by issue publics groups of citizens who are more attentive to particular areas of public policy than average citizens because they have some special stake in the issue i Most policy domains are of concern only to issue publics so it s usually their cpinions not mass opinion that matter to politicians h Opinion leaders amp issue publics are the main conduits of public opinions in a pluralist political system i However pluralism prevents opinion leaders to manipulate public opinion i People have a basic for the opinions they express and respond to opinion leaders accordingly j Public opinion as measured by polls influences public policy e The Content of Public Opinion Political opinions reflect people s underlying values amp beliefs about how the world works Consensus makes politics possible disagreement within this general consensus makes politics necessary Consensus on the System 1 Opinion polls find that almost every American supports the institutional underpinnings of modern democracy bill of rights 2 Many people favor things like gender wage equality but very little popular support exists for actually mandating equal outcomes iv Politicians A Suspect Class 1 Public s distrust of the gov has increased since 2nol half of 20th century 2 More people believe public officials are crooked and the gov wastes tax money can t be trusted is run with interest of a few and doesn t care about regular people 3 Caused by civil rights movementVietnam war and Watergate 4 Booming economybalanced federal budget during Clinton helped but trust in gov still very low v Public Opinion on Issues 1 When public is divided in different ways on different issues and lacks consensus on which are most important strategies for assembling and maintaining party coalitions become more difficult to conceive amp execute 2 Economic Issues a Although Americans believe fundamentally in capitalism almost no one believes that private businesses should be completely unregulated or that the things pe0ple value should be allocated exclusively by free market b Large majorities typically support stable or increased gov spending for programs that serve nearly everyone social security Medicare etc c Americans seem to support wide range of economic amp social welfare policies that are commonly classified as liberal but when it comes to principles Americans are more likely to think of themselves as conservatives 3 Social and Moral Issues a Politics is about the distribution of goods which can be moral or material b Today social and moral issues produce some of the most heated political controversies i Ex abortion 1 Aggregate public opinion on abortion is highly stable but acutely sensitive to how issue is framed c Americans take conservative position on most social issues but in practice views are often balanced by considerable respect for individual freedom 4 Foreign Policy a Except when Americans are dying overseas foreign policy issues tend to be remote from everyday experience and few people pay sustained attention to foreign affairs b In quiet times public opinion on foreign policy is responsive to opinion leadership c President is most important opinion leader on foreign policy but influence varies d Drift and division on foreign policy ended almost instantly with the assaults on 911 i Leaders in both parties and the public in general supported Bush administration s initial actions f Effects of Background on Public Opinion i Politicians pay close attention to group differences because they determine feasible coalitionbuilding strategies ii Race and Ethnicity 1 Sharpest differences of opinion between major groups in US politics is between blacks and whites and biggest gap is related to race issues 2 Whites are against segregation and support equal opportunity but disagree with blacks about what should be done about lingering effects of racial discrimination 3 Blacks are more likely than whites to favor greater gov action to provide jobs healthcare and other gov services but less supportive of defense spending and foreign wars 4 Differing views reflect different perceptions amp life expenences Blacks usually vote Democratic Other minority groups have different patterns of issue opinionvoting behavior because of economic status rather than ethnic views 7 Hispanics having lower incomes support more gov services democrats 8 Asians have higher incomes more conservative more republican 9 It s risky to generalize about groups but ethnic minorities express strong amp distinctive political views on issues directly affecting their groups iii Gender 1 Women are consistently less inclined than men to support the use of violence in foreign amp domestic policy 2 Women have more favorable attitudes toward social welfare spending amp regulations designed to protect the environment consumers amp children 3 Recent gender gap women more democratic men more republican 4 Women amp men actually don t differ much on sex related issues 5 Unmarried women are more democratic and account for most gender differences politically iv Income and education 1 There is less class difference in regard to opinion than the framers expected 2 People with low incomes more inclined to support gov spendingsocial programs than those with high incomes a Economic selfinterest b People getting more of the benefits tend to see greater merit in social programs than do those paying more of the costs 3 On noneconomic issues high income pe0ple are more liberal than low income more to do with educa on 9301 a More years of formal education leads to more liberal views v Religion vi 1 Religious beliefs shape values 2 Differences in these beliefs often underlie differences in political opinions 3 People with no religious preference Jewish Episcopalians Presbyterians Congregationalists are more liberal on social issues 4 Evangelical protestants southern Baptists Pentecostals are more conservative 5 Roman Catholics are in between Other democratic divisions 1 Younger voters are more liberal on social and economic issues 2 People in city are more liberal than people in suburbs or rural areas 3 People on coasts or in upper Midwest are more liberal than people in south plains mountain states esp on cultural issues 4 More affluent voters tend to be economic conservatives but social liberals 5 Voters with more modest incomes combine economic liberalism with social conservatism g Public Opinion A Vital Component of American Politics lndividual opinions become public opinion only wen aggregated The mass media report amp interpret the collective political experiences that become the material basis for individual cpinions Opinion leaders provide the cues that the rationally ignorant majority uses as shortcuts to forming its cpinion lndividual opinions are rooted in personal values and experiences but are shaped by and expresses through leaders and institutions