Chapter 11 public opinion and political socialization
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Opening segment – Entrance polls What is the problem with the concept of entrance polls?

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Chapter 11 Public opinion and political socialization

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Chapter 11 public opinion and political socialization

Opening segment – Entrance polls

What is the problem with the concept of entrance polls?

Polls can often be utilized to change political perceptions or opinions. Some, “push polls”, are specifically designed for this purpose. Assuming a standardized questionnaire and neutral interviewers, could this still have an influence on the outcomes of the caucus?

Chapter 11 Public opinion and political socialization


Population vs sample

Population is the larger group that the poll is said to represent: I.E. Registered Washington State voters or Whatcom Community College students

A sample is the group that is asked the poll questions from which generalizations are drawn to get an idea of the opinions of the broader population. It is important that the sample and the population match. For example, if you perform a poll using only WCC students, you cannot extrapolate this as being representative of registered Washington voters, only WCC students.

Population vs sample


Strongly held convictions of a minority

Pluralists advocate for the expression of minority opinions in the political arena. The civil rights movements and the fight against discrimination is a strong argument for this form of political debate.

But what if this minority is seeking privileges beyond what other citizens enjoy, or are seeking to actually limit the rights of others? Should their position be advanced simply because they have organized resources?

Strongly held convictions of a minority


Types of polls

Telephone polls – Common for their cost-effectiveness

Exit polls – Can have a serious effect on West Coast voter participation

Tracking polls – watch how a campaign evolves

Internet polls – Zogby “scientific” polls. If an individual knew they were going to be asked about an issue, they would be more inclined to develop an opinion.

Push polls – An excuse to get in front of voters and give them negative (and often false) information about the opposing candidate.

Types of polls


Poll vs survey

Technically speaking, a poll is only a couple questions in which the possible responses are limited – multiple choice, yes or no, candidate A, B, or C.

A survey offers more questions that may include some multiple choice, but is likely to include some open-ended questions. What is the most pressing political issue to you in the current election cycle?

Poll vs survey


Social sciences

The textbook tends to focus on the use of polls for political purposes. Polls are also an important component of social science research. Political polls may actually prefer a lack of accuracy, for example, a candidate’s strong poll numbers can lead to increased campaign donations.

Social scientists also collect data on public opinion, usually for the purpose of testing a hypothesis. The social scientist has an incentive for the data to support their hypothesis, but have the concern that their results should be able to be reproduced by other researchers. The methodology is crucial in both receiving accurate information and in the acceptance of the findings from the academic community.

Social sciences


Social science surveys

Social science surveys are key to understanding questions posed by social scientists. What is the correlation between minority populations and the acceptance of a social safety net? Does higher levels of religiosity lead to stronger or weaker democracies?

http://www.worldvaluessurvey.org/wvs/articles/folder_published/article_base_116

Social science surveys


The questions

How a question is stated can make a difference in the outcome of the question – framing.

100 surveys asked “Do you feel that the federal government should play a role in the redistribution of wealth?” (67% yes) Another 100 asked, “Do you feel that those who profit proportionally more from government funded infrastructure and institutions should pay proportionally more for their maintenance and improvements?” (86% yes) 19% difference in responses.

The order the questions are asked in can also influence the answers given. Two CBS polls asking about favorable/unfavorable opinions of Bob Dole found a 20 point spread in favorable ratings of Dole. The poll that had higher favorable ratings for Dole had the Dole question following a question on Pat Buchanan. The lower favorable ratings were produced after a question regarding voter’s opinion of Bill Clinton.

The questions


Sampling

Beyond questions and question order, how a population is sampled is an important key to the legitimacy of a “scientific” survey or poll.

Volunteer polls are considered relatively meaningless in the world of polling. Unless you are seeking to find out information about the population of those who are likely to volunteer for polls, the sample will not be representative of the population.

sampling


Florida florida florida

The textbook points to errors in exit polls as the reason that Florida was inaccurately called for Gore in the 2000 election. To this date, we still do not for sure know who won the majority in Florida in that election. The vote counting was stopped by the Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore (2000).

Florida, florida, florida


Resources

Typically, more accurate polls and surveys require a greater commitment of resources. A social scientist or pollster may know a better way to provide more accurate results, yet they are limited by their access to resources in selection of methodology. This is why telephone polls remain popular in spite of the flaws in the method. It remains the best way to reach a broader sample with limited resources.

resources


Intensity and activist issues

Most important issue or importance of issue.

Goes to salience

Intensity and activist issues

0 – most important

1 – Very important

2 – Important

3 – Slightly Important

4 – Not important


Lack of interest and beat journalism

News media is a business, as a result, producers provide what sells at the lowest cost. Coverage of international news in the United States is far below the content of European nations where public broadcasting continues to play a significant role. Some portion of this could be the result of the isolationist mentality of Americans.

Keeping a reporter “on the beat” in a foreign country is an expensive proposition that presents little in the way of ratings.

Lack of interest and beat journalism


Timeline of international crisis

Initial focusing event – Have Americans ever heard of this place? Tunisia vs Egypt

Resources are committed for coverage. Without beat journalists knowledgeable about the issue, initial news reports will echo the government frame until nongovernmental experts can be found or the jouralists gain a level of competency. Lead up to the Iraq War

Once journalists are up to speed and reporting on the topic is beyond government talking points, journalists can provide perspectives on the issue beyond the limited information provided by the government that has been tested through focus groups.

This process is probably the best explanation of the change in American public opinion over the course of the Iraq War. If we knew then what we know now…

Timeline of international crisis


Demographics

In the data on the right we find that the influence of race on political support is significantly stronger than that of religion, with the difference between black and white protestants being more significant than the difference between evangelical and secular voters.

demographics


The protestant ethic

The textbook supports Max Weber’s argument that the Protestant ethic of hard work and personal responsibility explains our less developed welfare state. This is one way of looking at it.

The other way of looking at it is that socialist sentiments were never as developed in the United States. We have two major periods in US history in which hard work paid off. First, in Westward expansion, land was free to any with the gumption to take it, and second, during the Keynesian era when worker’s wages kept pace with their productivity.

The protestant ethic


Test the hypothesis

The graph below compares information regarding Protestant religious affiliation and Gini scores. The religious data is taken from the World Values Survey and the Gini scores came from the CIA World Fact book.

Test the hypothesis

The two lowest Gini scores, denoting equitable income distribution are Norway with 92.6% of survey respondents identifying themselves as Protestant and Sweden with only 0.30% identifying themselves as Protestant.


Join the debate

Should civics be taught in American high schools?

“De Tocqueville argued that without common values and virtues, there can be no common action or social stability.” Echoes Rousseau. Liberté, égalité, fraternitéare important social values for the French.

Should certain values be pressed upon individuals?

Ideally, the teaching of civics should involve teaching individuals to think for themselves.

The suggestion that families or religious establishments may be better suited for political socialization of children suggests that these institutions are better at teaching children what to think.

Does the greater diversity of cultures and political views make America stronger, or weaker?

Join the debate


Political socialization

Socialize - to fit or train for a social environment

Indoctrinate - to imbue with a usually partisan or sectarian opinion, point of view, or principle

Political socialization


Importance of polls

Whether a congressman believes they should act in the capacity of a trustee, delegate, or politico, they need to be responsive to some degree to the will of the people. If they are corrupt and are acting in their own interests, public opinion is irrelevant.

A congressman who ignores professionally produced, nonpartisan polling is giving way to the acceptance of a false consensus.

Importance of polls


However

Polls can be crafted to provide the answers that advance an agenda of the pollster or their sponsor.

Most Americans lack sufficient political knowledge to provide informed opinions regarding complex issues, yet these people will still give an opinion to pollsters

Polls often have flaws in methodology or sampling.

However…


Polls in systems theory

Polls play a role in the feedback loop of systems theory as pollsters register either demands or support through the statistics they have collected.

Polls can be used to shape public opinion as many will jump on the bandwagon of the political pet rock of the moment.

Polls in systems theory


False consensus

When an individual incorrectly believes that their opinion is shared by the majority of the broader population.

Causes: We tend to self-select our influences based on our perspectives and ideologies. It is not surprising, then, that we observe the majority of these influences, friends, family, politicians, and pundits, that we assume that the majority share the opinion.

Effect: As voters, we feel that politicians who fail to provide our desired outcomes are acting against the will of the majority. As politicians, some may believe they are acting in the interest of the majority while they may instead be acting in the interest of the narrow majority to which they are exposed. (IE lobbyists and rent-seekers)

False consensus


Pluralistic ignorance

A situation where a majority of group members privately reject a norm, but assume (incorrectly) that most others accept it.

Causes: Fear of speaking out against something for fear of reprisal or peer pressure.

Effects: Individuals fail to speak out against a system or social norms to which they are opposed. Examples range from teenage drinking and promiscuity on the milder end, to segregation, communist domination, and the power of the Nazi regime on the more extreme end. Ultimately, the dominant view fails to surface as the private views are not expressed publicly.

Pluralistic ignorance


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