O Connor  Sabato, Chapter 10: Public Opinion  News Media

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Key Topics. IntroductionThe early media: efforts to influence and measure public opinionPolitical socialization and the factors that influence opinion formation. Introduction: War as

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O Connor Sabato, Chapter 10: Public Opinion News Media

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1. O’Connor & Sabato, Chapter 10: Public Opinion & News Media Presentation 10.1: The Early Media & Political Socialization

2. Key Topics Introduction The early media: efforts to influence and measure public opinion Political socialization and the factors that influence opinion formation

3. Introduction: War as ‘Reality TV’ Gulf War II’s impact on the news cycle A 20% spike in viewership The role of the media in covering warfare: chroniclers or propagandists?

4. 1i. Introduction cont.: The ‘Embeds’ The role of embedded journalists in covering the war Were the ‘embedded’ reporters able to see the ‘big picture’

5. 1ii. Introduction cont. The Role of the Media in a Democracy Widespread confusion and cynicism among the public regarding the media The ‘jaded public’ theory: Americans are subjected to so many polls that the accuracy of polls must be questioned Is the media seeking merely to identify public opinion, or shape it?

6. 1iii. What is Public Opinion? What the public thinks about a particular issue at a particular point in time The ‘snapshot’ quality of any particular public opinion survey Public opinion as a reification*: There is no single ‘Public Opinion’ on controversial issues (e.g. abortion or gun control).

7. 2. The Early Media The link between democracy and public opinion The term ‘public opinion’ came into vogue in the early 19th century Politicians’ need to reliably gauge public sentiment

8. 2i. Public Opinion & World War I President Wilson and the creation of the Committee on Public Information (CPI) Begin in 1914 to shift public opinion in support of US entrance on the side of the Allies CPI’s efforts as the first American public relations campaign

9. 2ii. The Genesis of Public Opinion Polling Systematic polling was not created until the 1930s The alliance of social science and statistics Began as a business tool, but innovative data gathering and interpreting techniques led to wider applications

10. 2a. Early Election Forecasting Attempts by newspaper to forecast the outcomes of elections 1824 PN newspaper attempted to predict the winner of the presidential election 1833 Boston Globe conducted one of the first ‘exit surveys’ to predict the results of key elections The Literary Digest’s use of ‘comprehensive’ surveys to predict presidential election outcomes between 1920-1932

11. 2ai. The Literary Digest Along with Vanity Fair, was one of the more influential political and cultural magazines of the early 20th century Famous for its election predictions

12. 2aii. Straw Polls Unscientific surveys used to gauge public opinion on issues and election outcomes The Literary Digest’s polls were viewed state-of-the-art However, it incorrectly predicted that Alf Landon would defeat FDR by 57-43% of the popular vote (FDR won by a 62-38%)

13. 2b. What Went Wrong? The Digest’s poll included potential respondents without establishing a ‘representative’ sample Three fatal errors 1st: Drawn from telephone directories & automobile owners’ lists (over sampling the wealthy) 2nd: Timing: questionnaires mailed in early September 3rd: Self –selection: only highly motivated individuals sent back cards (only 22% of those surveyed responded)

14. 2bi. One Pollster who got the 1936 Election Right Social scientist who wrote his doctoral dissertation on measurement of newspaper readership Emphasized random sampling

15. 2bii. 1948: Another Black Eye for the Pollsters Everyone – including Gallup – predicted that GOP Thomas Dewey would defeat Harry Truman Truman won by appealing to new constituencies

16. 2biii. How Accurate are Polls? The problem with the 2000 elections: too close to call Survey’s can predict outcomes with a significant margin of victory; otherwise, they are no better than straw polls in close elections Politics Now section on p. 331: what was wrong with Gallup’s poll of Muslims?

17. 3. Political Socialization Many political attitudes come from values systems Political socialization: ‘The process through which an individual acquires particular political orientations The learning process by which people acquire their political beliefs and values

18. 3a. Major Factors Affecting Opinion Formation Earliest memories of politics can have a lifelong impact The importance of parental guidance into the world of politics If parents discuss political issues in the presence of their children, the child is more likely to develop political attitudes

19. 3b. The Family The importance of communication and receptivity Children raised in partisan households are more likely to become partisans themselves

20. 3c. School and Peers The role of schools in teaching respect & patriotism The role of the schools in cultivating civic virtues The relationship between education and voting

21. 3ci. Schools cont. In higher education, students learn important critical skills College and the ‘liberalizing’ effect Uneven evidence that more education makes you liberal More young people tend to self-identify as liberal than conservative (28-21%)

22. 3d. Religion The importance of religion for many Americans The rising number of secular Americans The secular/spiritual divide in American politics

23. 3di. The Religious Divide 2000 Data

24. 3dii. The Impact of Religion Religious perspectives affect people’s political views and affiliations Catholics and Jews were historically marginalized groups who have supported the Democratic Party The shift of Baptists from the Democratic to Republican Party

25. 3e. Gender Women hold distinctive political views More likely to hold negative views of military intervention & positive views on social welfare & education

26. 3ei. The ‘Gender Gap’ Women are also on average more likely to support environmental protection and oppose capital punishment Are many women’s more liberal orientations explained by a ‘maternal nature’ Research does not indicate such a link

27. 3eii. Gender Differences on Political Issues Data from a recent Gallop-Washington Post Survey

28. 3f. Race and Ethnicity The importance of cultural differences between whites and racial and ethnic groups The problem of alienation among African-Americans

29. 3fi. Race cont. Racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to view government with suspicion and support affirmative action programs Hispanics as a whole are more likely to self-identify as liberal Cuban-Americans are more likely to be conservative

30. 3g. Age The social and political consequences of the ‘graying of America’ The effect of age on people view of the proper role of government

31. 3h. Region The role of immigration in creating distinctive regional politics Scandinavians in Minnesota, Irish, Italians, and Jews in NE cities The politics of the South More religious More likely to support a strong national defense Southerners accounted for 41% of the troops in the Persian Gulf war (comprise 28% of the general population)

32. 3i. The Impact of Events Events can have a lasting impact on peoples’ political attitudes The Great Depression, WWII, the Vietnam Conflict, JFK’s assassination, Watergate, OK City Bombing, 9/11 etc. Events can spark greater commitment from the public or widen mistrust and cynicism

33. 3j. The Mass Media A person’s media habits can affect their perspective Media can enlighten voters or encourage turnout The growing number of Americans who get their information online (22% of Internet users researched candidates through the Internet)

34. 3k. Political Ideology and Public Opinion About Government Americans’ attachment to strong ideological positions has varied over time Most Americans believe that they hold a coherent ideology However, 37% of Americans identify themselves as ‘middle of the road’ or ‘moderate

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