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Public Opinion/The Media. For Next Time. Liberal Source O’Connor and Sabato 15, 12 Enduring Debate Sections 41,42,44-46 264 #1 293 1-3. The Ugly- Literary Digest Poll. 1936 Election Over 1 Million Respondents Predicts Alf Landon Win Problem- Selecting Participants

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Public Opinion/The Media

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Public opinion the media

Public Opinion/The Media

For next time

For Next Time

  • Liberal Source

  • O’Connor and Sabato 15, 12

  • Enduring Debate Sections 41,42,44-46

  • 264 #1

  • 293 1-3

The ugly literary digest poll

The Ugly- Literary Digest Poll

  • 1936 Election

  • Over 1 Million Respondents

  • Predicts Alf Landon Win

  • Problem- Selecting Participants

  • Problem- Low response rate

  • Problem- Too far in advance of election

Polling and democracy

Polling and Democracy

  • Verba- Allows voices to be heard that would not otherwise

  • Allows greater detail on wishes of public than elections would.

  • Dryzek- Empowers status quo

  • Does not allow spontaneous expression of opinion

The uses of polls

The Uses Of Polls

  • The media

  • Election Forecasting

  • By the public

  • By politicians

    • To inform policy

    • To sell policy

  • By Interest groups

Public opinion and representation

Public Opinion and Representation

  • Large shifts in opinion -> changes in policy

  • District level Congruence in some policy domains

    • Strongest in states with referendum

Public opinion and representation1

Public Opinion and Representation

  • Can reign in lobbyists

  • When is public opinion influential?

  • When it sends a clear message

  • When it moves dramatically

  • When Issue is Salient

  • Limits

    • Not all issues salient

    • Public opinion shifts

Public opinion and elections

Public Opinion and Elections

  • Surveys allow for forecasting

  • Can enable strategic voting

  • Large impact on fundraising

  • Horse race coverage

Presidential approval

Presidential Approval

  • “Do you generally approve of the way ________ is handling his job as president?”

  • Important resource

  • Increased Bargaining Power

  • More successful with congress

  • Success brings success

Sources of approval or lack thereof

Sources of Approval (or lack thereof)

  • The economy

    • Both current performance and expectations

    • Economy as a whole more important than personal

  • Presidential “drama”

  • War/foreign policy

  • Media Coverage

  • Priming

    • Focusing attention on particular areas

    • Can help or hurt overall approval

Political trust

Political Trust

  • Most of the time, can you trust government to do the right thing?

  • Trend- Generally decreasing

  • Similar trend for other institutions as well

  • Sources?

  • Policy Dissatisfaction

  • Increasing gap between promises/results

  • Political Scandal/Media

Political trust1

Political Trust

  • Consequences

  • Decreased Turnout?

  • Electoral Choice

    • Benefits 3rd party candidates and challengers

  • Difficulty building policy support



  • A willingness to tolerate the presence of ideas that you do not agree with

  • Stouffer 1955

  • 80-90% of respondents support abstract liberties

  • 30-35% support applications of those liberties

  • The more educated more likely to be tolerant



  • More recent work

  • Gap between abstract and applied

  • Gap between educated and not?

  • Different groups-> different results

  • When allowed to pick groups they don’t like, more educated nearly as intolerant

  • Americans not much more tolerant than in the 50s?

The media

The Media

  • Organizations that provide information to the public

  • Information on politics

  • Information on events

  • Information on conditions

Past media research

Past Media Research

  • Started in late 40s as a response to WWII

  • Authoritarian Personality- Personality and Supporting Fascism

  • Early Media- Propaganda and support for fascism



Past media research1

Past Media Research

  • “Hypodermic Needle” model

  • Still assumed in much of popular political discourse

  • Generally not supported by research

Past media research2

Past Media Research

  • Minimal Effects Model

  • 50’s-80’s

  • Media had very little impact on public opinion.

    • No evidence of direct persuasion

    • In campaigns, Party ID was main factor determining vote choice

    • Limited volatility

Past media research3

Past Media Research

  • McClure and Patterson The Unseeing Eye

  • “Television’s Image making power is a myth.”

  • “The only noticeable effect of campaign news is an increased tendency among voters to view politics in the same trivial terms that the newscasts depict it. Regular viewers of network news are likely to describe an election campaign as a lot of nonsense rather than a choice between fundamental issues”

Modern media and public opinion

Modern Media and Public Opinion

  • Iyengar and Kinder: News That Matters

  • Subtle Effects

  • Agenda Setting

  • Priming

  • Framing

Agenda setting

Agenda Setting

  • News not so great at telling what to think

  • But powerful at telling people what to think about

  • Increased media attention to an issue increases importance placed on it

  • Can trump personal experiences

Agenda setting1

Agenda Setting

  • Health care- in 90s-78% of people satisfied with their care, but large majorities think there is a health care crisis

  • Crime- In 90s- Crime decreased, crime coverage increased, 50% of public thinks crime is increasing

  • Fear of crime- Not related to victimhood, knowing a crime victim, strongly related to how much TV you watch

Agenda setting2

Agenda Setting

  • Hypothesis- those problems receive prominent attention on the national news become the problems the viewing public regard as the nations most important

  • Implicit- More coverage-> more importance

  • Other factors may make story prominent too

Vivid cases

Vivid Cases

  • Does telling of the story have an impact?

  • Presentation of vivid story (With human interest story) or pallid story (statistics)

  • Expectation- Vividness will be more likely to set the agenda

  • Mixed results

  • In most cases, vivid no more effective, if not less

  • In stories with race, strong negative impact on agenda setting if person portrayed is black

Lead stories

Lead Stories

  • Another facet of presentation

  • Expectation- First story will be viewed as more important than later stories

  • We all have expectations about where stories go in broadcast/paper

  • Mostly confirmed

  • This varies by medium- E.G. On internet, less of an agenda setting effect

Agenda setting3

Agenda Setting

  • Health care

  • 80%- My Doctor Usually Explains things to me

  • 50%- Doctors Usually Explain things to their patients

  • 65%- Doctors are too interested in making money

  • 25%- My doctor is too interested in making money

  • Crime- In 90s- Crime decreased, crime coverage increased, 50% of public thinks crime is increasing

  • Fear of crime- Not related to victimhood, knowing a crime victim, strongly related to how much TV you watch

Agenda setting importance

Agenda Setting-Importance

  • Perceptions of national problems more politically important than perceptions of personal problems

  • Problem- Media Coverage can lead to misperceptions

  • Problem- Possible manipulation

  • Upside- Allow people to consider more than own experiences

  • Upside- Can highlight significant problems



  • Def: The standards citizens use to judge a president [or other figure] may be substantially by which stores newscasts choose to cover, and consequently, which considerations are made generally accessible

  • Coverage does not necessarily change overall evaluation, changes criteria of evaluation

  • Overall evaluation may go up or down depending on how president is viewed as doing on a specific domain



  • Example- George Bush and Gulf War

  • As war coverage increases, so does approval

  • As economic coverage increases, decreases

  • Irony- Economy not so bad as media portrayals



  • Because frames permeate public discussions of politics, they in effect teach ordinary citizens how to think about and understand complex social problems... Elites wage a war of frames because they know that if their frame becomes the dominant way of thinking about a problem, then the battle of public opinion has been won”- Nelson and Kinder 1996



  • Sniderman’s Value Pluralism Model- People have a number of values that they hold strongly but that are incompatible with one another

  • Issues can tap any of a number of these values

  • Framing can determine which values are deemed relevant for evaluating the issue

Klan rally experiment

Klan Rally Experiment

  • Tolerance is a tricky issue

  • Especially the issue of tolerating intolerance

  • Two sets of values

    • Free Speech

    • Public Safety

  • Which values applied make difference for whether people support right to march

Framing effects

Framing Effects

  • Sexual Psychopaths

  • Military in Iraq

  • Health Care

  • Abortion

Who is susceptible to media effects

Who is Susceptible to Media Effects?

  • Those who are exposed

    • Moderate exposure

  • Those who are moderately aware

  • Those who are trusting of the media

  • Political moderates?

Media and elections

Media and Elections

  • Intense Coverage

  • Horse Race Journalism

  • Public Dissatisfaction

Media bias

Media Bias

  • The Problem- disconnect with reality

  • Perception- Liberal bias

  • Racial Bias?

  • Class bias?

  • Audience bias

News norms

News Norms

  • Impartiality

  • Equal Time

  • Conflict

  • Novelty

Media types

Media Types

  • Newspapers

  • Broadcast Media

  • Radio

  • Narrowcasting?

  • Cable

  • Internet

Internet and politics

Internet And Politics

  • Wide range of viewpoints

  • Interactive

  • Paradox- Loss of civil society?

  • Reinforcement of views

  • More of the Same?

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