Political socialization and public opinion
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Political Socialization and Public Opinion. Chapter XI | AP United States Government and Politics. Public Opinion and Polling. Polls are the most common means of assessing public opinion Public opinion is what the public thinks about a particular issue or set of issues at any point in time

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Political socialization and public opinion

Political Socialization and Public Opinion

Chapter XI | AP United States Government and Politics


Public opinion and polling

Public Opinion and Polling

  • Polls are the most common means of assessing public opinion

    • Public opinion is what the public thinks about a particular issue or set of issues at any point in time

    • Public opinion polls are interviews or surveys with samples of citizens that are used estimate the feelings and beliefs of the entire population

    • Straw Polls are unscientific surveys used to gauge public opinion on a variety of issues and policies


Public opinion and polling1

Public Opinion and Polling

  • A sample is a subset of the whole population selected to be questioned for the purposes of prediction or gauging opinion

    • A random sample, or group that statistically represents the whole population of the United States, is asked to fill out a questionnaire or answer some questions over the phone

      • The Literary Digest Poll of 1936, Alf Landon, and telephone and vehicle ownership skew

      • Today’s random digit dialing


Public opinion and polling2

Public Opinion and Polling

  • Push Polls are taken for the purpose of providing information on an opponent that would lead respondents to vote against that candidate

  • Tracking polls are continuous surveys that enable a campaign to chart its daily rise or fall in support

  • An exit poll is conducted by media as voters leave the voting booth to predict the outcomes of elections


Public opinion and polling3

Public Opinion and Polling

  • Nevertheless, there are some problems that can call poll results into questions

    • The margin of error is the measure of the accuracy of a public opinion poll

    • A sampling error: the size and quality of the sample can also affect the accuracy of a poll and thus the level of confidence in the poll

      • The poor and homeless are often underrepresented because insufficient attention is given to making certain that these groups are sampled representatively

    • Ambiguous phrasing: the wording of a question is critical, and ambiguously worded questions can affect the accuracy of a poll


Public opinion and polling4

Public Opinion and Polling

  • Limited respondent options: Polls can be inaccurate when they limit responses. The more constrained choices respondents are given, for example, “do you like or dislike this policy,” the less reliable and useful the poll is

  • Difficulty measuring intensity: A respondent might answer affirmatively to any question, but it is likely that his or her feelings about issues such as abortion, the death penalty, or support for U.S. troops in Afghanistan or Iraq are much more intense than are his or her feelings about the Electoral College or types of voting machines. Yet, polls rarely have mechanisms to differentiate degree of passion on an issue


Why we form and express political opinions

Why We Form and Express Political Opinions

  • Recent polls indicate that Americans have little political knowledge and little faith that the government is acting on their behalf

  • Public opinion polls have shown a trend indicating that Americans trust government less than they used to

  • What Americans value: political ideologies

  • Political ideology is an individual’s coherent set of values and beliefs about the purpose and scope of government


Conservative ideology

Conservative ideology

  • Favors limited government and freedom of the private sector

  • More likely to support military spending, free markets, prayer in school, and reduced taxes

  • Opposes abortion, affirmative action, and government spending on social programs


Liberal ideology

Liberal ideology

  • Favors an active central government with social and economic responsibilities

  • Favors a more equal distribution of wealth, more governmental regulation of big business, more governmental spending on social programs, and abortion

  • Opposes increases in defense spending and military actions, prayer in school, and tax breaks for the wealthy

  • Most Americans today, however, identify themselves as moderates, somewhere between Liberal and Conservative position on most issues


The effect of p o on government and politics

The Effect of P.O. on Government and Politics

  • Founder’s belief: “all government rests on public opinion” - The Federalist Papers

  • Arguments that reliance on polling weakens democracy:

    • Polls allow governments and politicians to say that they have considered public opinion even though polls don’t always measure the intensity of feelings on an issue or might over-reflect the views of the public because of responders who lack sufficient information to make choices

    • Politicians might rely on poll results rather than a thoughtful debate of the issues to make policy decisions


The effect of p o on government and politics1

The Effect of P.O. on Government and Politics

  • How polls can distort the election process:

    • Bandwagon effects are good poll numbers that can make people more likely to support a candidate and can increase campaign donations

    • Underdog effects are bad poll numbers that can deter people from supporting or donating to a campaign


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