Ch. 8 Public Opinion and Voting
Ch. 8 Public Opinion and Voting P SC 1113
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This 9 page Class Notes was uploaded by Rebecca Hurlburt on Monday November 2, 2015. The Class Notes belongs to P SC 1113 at University of Oklahoma taught by Dr. Tyler Johnson in Fall 2015. Since its upload, it has received 20 views. For similar materials see American Federal Government in Political Science at University of Oklahoma.
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Chapter 8 Public Opinion and Voting Weekly Notes for American Federal Government P SC 1113 Chapter Notes Vocabulary agents of political socialization people and institutions that in uence the political views of others media newspapers magazines television radio the Internet and any other printed or electronic means of communication peer group associates often close in age to one another may include friends classmates co workers club members or religious group members political socialization the learning process through which most people acquire their political attitudes opinions beliefs and knowledge public opinion the views of the citizenry about politics public issues and public policies a complex collection of opinions held by many people on issues in the public arena biased sample a poll sample that does not accurately represent the population house effect in the case of a polling rm a consistent tendency to report results more favorable to one of the political parties than the results reported by other pollsters public opinion poll a survey of the public s opinion on a particular topic at a particular moment push poll a campaign tactic used to feed false or misleading information to potential voters under the guise of taking an opinion poll with the intent to push voters away from one candidate and toward another random sample in the context of opinion polling a sample in which each person within the entire population being polled has and equal chance of being chosen sample in the context of opinion polling a group of people selected to represent the population being studied sampling error in the context of opinion polling the difference between what the sample results show and what the true results would have been had everybody in the relevant population been interviewed straw poll a nonscienti c poll in which there is no way to ensure that the opinions expressed are representative of the larger population gender gap the difference between the percentage of votes cast for a particular candidate by women and the percentage of votes cast for the same candidate by men Solid South a term used to describe the tendency of the southern states to vote Democratic after the Civil War grandfather clause a clause in a state law that had the effect of restricting voting rights to those whose ancestors had voted before the 1860s It was one of the techniques used in the South to prevent African Americans from exercising their right to vote literacy test a test given to voters to ensure that they could read and write and thus evaluate political information This technique was used in many southern states to restrict African American participation in elections poll taX a fee of several dollars that had to be paid before a person could vote This device was used in some southern states to discourage African Americans and lowincome whites from voting white primary a primary election in which African Americans were prohibited form voting The practice was banned by the Supreme Court in 1944 voteeligible population the number of people who are actually eligible to vote in an American election votingage population the number of people residing in the United States who are at least eighteen years old How Do People Form Political Opinions The Importance of Family Parents typically do not teach their children to support a political party in the same way that they teach them to ride a bike However most children are still very in uenced by their parents political affiliation in more subtle ways Most children will have the same political affiliation as their parents especially if both parents support the same party Schools and Churches Schools can in uence students political identity through history and government classes Students can also learn about politics through student government Typically more educated people are more likely to be involved in government The church can also be very in uential in a child s political identity depending on the type of message that is preached The Media Some scholars believe that the media is becoming even more in uential that family and friends Others believe that people go to television and social media with preconceived beliefs and are not very affected by the media Opinion Leaders Opinion leaders are wellknown citizens who in uence other citizens with their political opinions These can be public officials religious leaders teachers celebrities or even former politicians Major Life Events Maj or events can greatly affect political opinion People who lived through the Great Depression believe that the government should step in when the economy is suffering Those who lived through World War 11 believe that America should be involved in foreign affairs while those who were growing up during the Vietnam War do not Peer Groups Political beliefs an be strongly in uenced in teens by peer groups eg friends classmates coworkers club members religious group members Economic Status Economic status can affect political opinion e g poorer people are more likely to support government assistance programs Occupation can affect political opinion e g labor union members will tend to have the same political beliefs someone working for a nonprofit will be likely to support government spending in that area Public Opinion Polls Early Polling Efforts since the 1800s the media has been using stay polls to gauge public opinion The problem with draw polls is that they do not accurately represent the entire population In 1936 the Literary Digest sent out a poll of the presidential election to everyone who owned a telephone or a car The poll showed that Republican Alfred Lanlon however after the Great Depression not many Americans owned a car therefore the poll was inaccurate and the incumbent FDR actually won the election Polling Today The earlier polls were conducted door to door but as more American households had telephones polls were handled over the phone more often It is more difficult for pollsters to contact Americans over the phone as cellphones have become more popular and landlines are slowly becoming irrelevant Internet surveys are becoming more and more popular Samples must be chosen correctly to accurately represent the entirety of the relevant population Polls are typically publicized using exact numbers but these do not always draw an accurate picture of the poll s results Problems with Opinion Polls One of the biggest issues with polls is that it is almost impossible to get an accurate representation of the population for lots of reasons Bias and how a question is phrased can greatly in uence how the person being polled will answer leading to skewed results Public opinion is always changing so polls must be given constantly There is a complaint that instead of measuring public opinion polls actually create it known as the bandwagon effect Push polls which ask fake questions to push the person toward a candidate are frowned upon and seen as dirty tricks Why People Vote as They Do Party Identification Party identi cation is one of the strongest and most lasting predictor of how people will vote Even Americans who identify as independents tend to lean toward one party or the other Perception of the Candidates Perception of the personalities of the candidates can also strongly affect how citizens will vote Policy Choices Some people vote for candidates because they agree with certain policies Economic issues tend to have the strongest in uence on voters Socioeconomic Factors As a general rule more educated Americans tend to vote Republican However more and more people with post grad degrees are identifying as Democratic It used to be that those with higher incomes tended to identify as Republicans and vice versa However this pattern is breaking down Younger voters are typically more liberal although this is not always the case Also voters tend to favor the party that did well when they were young In recent years the gender gap has become more pronounced With the feminist movement it seems that women are more likely to favor liberal policies Most minorities tend to favor Republicans in several cases because of lower income However Cuban Americans and Vietnamese Americans tend to vote Republican Although they originally tended to vote Republican Muslims are mow the largest Democratic religious group in the country The South the Great Plains and parts of the Rocky Mountains are strongly Republican while the Northeast the West Coast and Illinois are strongly Democratic Ideology Ideology is typically a strong indicator for how someone will vote In most cases conservatives will vote Republican and liberals will vote Democratic Politicians work hard to try to win the moderate vote Voting and Voter Turnout Factors Affecting Voter Turnout In the past legal restrictions based on income gender and race kept many Americans from voting These restrictions have been almost completely eliminated Voter turnout is very low but has improved slightly in recent years People do not vote for many reasons including the belief that they do not need to vote or that their vote will not matter or because they do not know enough about the candidates The Legal Right to Vote Today citizens who are at least 18 years old and are not felons can vote Originally only white men who owned property could vote It did not take very long for all white men to be able to vote African Americans were prevented from voting after emancipation by poll taxes literacy tests and the grandfather clause Until 1944 African Americans could not vote in the Democratic primary election Women were given the right to vote in 1920 and the voting age was lowered to 18 in 1971 Voting is still restricted to citizens of the United States Attempts to Improve Voter Turnout The National Voter Registration Act Motor Voter Law made it easier fro voters to register by making registration available when a person applies for or renews their driver s license Mail in voting has become the main form of voting in a few states It has slightly increased voter turnout but not by much Some laws have made it more difficult for some to vote such as the law that requires voters to present a picture ID before they can vote Attempts to Improve Voting Procedures In recent years the government has tried to make voting electronic In 2006 this caused many issues as some votes were ipped and some disappeared completely The government has tried multiple times to make voting electronic but two thirds of elections are still conducted with paper ballots Who Actually Votes The more education a person has the more likely they are to vote Wealthy people tend to vote more often than the poor Older people tend to vote more often than the young Minorities have traditionally been underrepresented in elections However Latino and African American turnout has increased exponentially Many people cannot vote because they are not citizens or they are felons This may offset the actual percentage of Americans who do vote It is possible that voter turnout is actually much higher than what has been recorded Lecture Notes Participation and Voting Gosnell s NonVoting Causes and Methods of Control 39 Four categories of nonvoters in the survey 39 1 Physical Difficulties illness absence detained by helpless member of family 39 2 Legal and administrative obstacles insufficient legal residence fear of loss of business or wages congestion of the polls poor location of polling booth fear of disclosure of age 3 Disbelief in voting disbelief in women s voting objections of husband belief that one vote counts for nothing disgust with politics disgust with own party belief that ballot box is corrupted disbelief in all political action 4 Inertia general indifference indifference to particular election intended to vote but failed ignorance or timidity regarding elections failure of party worker Why Don t Some People Take Part They can t They don t want to Nobody asked They Can t Lacking resources time or money 39 Not effective at using resources They Don t Want To Little interest in politics overall or now Think they can t make a difference no efficacy Littleno knowledge about process Nobody Asked 39 Isolated from networks of recruitment 39 People around them in everyday life aren39t political Are these excuses legitimate Or just excuses Verba Schlozman and Brady s Four Reasons to Participate 39 Material benefits want to solve personal problems 39 Social grati cation exciting enjoyment 39 Civic gratification sense of duty doing one s share 39 Collective outcomes want to in uence policy for all Defining Mobilization Process by which candidatespartiesactivists groups convince others to participate 39 Two types direct and indirect 39 Direct personal contact from campaign through doortodoormail speeches 39 Indirect contact through surrogates like the media supporters endorsers Strategies of Political Mobilization 39 Don t mobilize everyone don t mobilize all the time Get the most effective number of people with the least amount of effort Mobilizing To Do What 39 Persuade others to vote Actively work for party or candidate 39 Attend political meeting or rally 39 Contribute money to party or candidate Become a member 39 Vote What Shapes Vote Choice Party identification 39 Social identities groups 39 Incumbentcandidate performance Policy issues 39 Candidate traits Policy Issues 39 Ideally voters would engage in proximity voting Proximity voting evaluate candidate ideologypositions choose who is closest 39 Reality many do not engage in this 39 Why Takes more time and effort than other shortcuts Pessimists on Issue Voting 39 It s rare because of 3 condition threshold 39 Condition 1 have to be aware of an issue and have an opinion 39 Condition 2 have to feel intensely about an issue 39 Condition 3 have to know where candidates are that one is better for you than the other Optimists on Issue Voting Some issues are easier than others to understand 39 Even imperfect information is something Candidates Helpful or Hurtful 39 Candidates not always helpful with information clearer on some issues for specific reasons 39 Candidates uid depending on time during campaign primary v general Candidate Traits A simpler strategy Requires less timeeffort 39 Links between positive assessments on personality and likelihood of voting for someone Might matter more when there s less information to draw on 39 Examples caringcompassionate understanding of people like me experienced quali ed trustworthy leadership intelligent honest Who Has Which Traits Which candidate is most caring Least caring 39 Which candidate is most experienced Least experienced 39 Which candidate is most trustworthy and honest Least trustworthy and honest WhoWhat Shapes Political Development 39 Family PeersFriends Schools HistoryEvents 39 Genetics Media Why Do Parents Succeed Time spent together equals opportunities Frequent political discussions 20 percent more likely to vote and continue voting 39 Strong directional bonds between family and children translate to politics Still as successful Children more rebellious Changes in family structure Peers A Secondary In uence Substantial time spent with friends 39 Can reinforce undermine lessons or maybe be completely apolitical Schools Modern Classroom Roles Teach political knowledge 39 Teach political participation skills Teach tolerance 39 Teach acceptance of support for democratic values What does college do 39 More people are going to college than ever 39 More attending equals more education 39 More education means greater tolerance support for democratic values History and Events 39 Generation effects time you come of age affects opinions Life cycle effects aging affects opinions 39 Specific events events affect opinions Genetic evidence Minnesota Center for Twin and Family Research examines 1400 sets of twins 39 Identical twins more likely to be ideologically similar than fraternal twins 39 John Alford gets 9000 twins to react to 28 political words e g segregation immigration capitalism 39 Identical twins reactions correlated more highly for all 28 words 39 More conservative students larger right amygdala more liberal students larger anterior cingulate How might the media affect your opinions Is it only just the news that might have such effects By mid20s partisanship ideology start to stick persist What could cause opinion change 39 New job 39 New community 39 New circle of friends Marriage Marriage effects 39 Huber and Malhotra many take place in assertive mating choosing someone with similar beliefs 39 Most married couples political beliefs grow even more similar over time Literary Digest and 1936 39 Literary Digest correctly predicts the presidential election winner from 19201932 1936 predicts Alf Landon Republican will defeat Franklin Roosevelt Democrat 5743 39 How they drew this conclusion sent 10 millions postcards to Americans 39 Addresses from phone books club and association rosters city directories lists of car owners 22 million sent the postcards back 4 Flaws in Literary Digest s Method 39 l the sample was biased toward the wealthy and during the Depression 2 the postcards were sent out too early couldn t capture late movement 39 3 the New Deal Coalition had solidified and were behind Roosevelt yet not sampled 4 the survey relied on selfselection who sends back postcards educated wealthy strong opinions Considerations with Survey Questions and Answers Have you taken a vacation in the last few years Question wording needs to be clear Recognize words phrases have power Example Americans 31 percent less likely to cut aid to the needy than public welfare programs Think about the possible responses respondents can give as well Think about optouts like don t know or middle categories e g neither approve nor disapprove Question ordering could affect outcomes as well Modern Survey Challenges Response rates declining Shift to robotic polls turns people off Rise of cell phones no autodialing area code matching issues Internet as solution The Slippery Slope When Polls Have Other Motivations Begging Polls Pseudo Polls Push Polls