The Formation of Public Opinion What is Public Opinion? • Public Opinion is the complex collection of opinions of many different people. • There are many publics that exist in the U.S. too many to be counted. Each public is made up of all those individuals who hold the same view on on some particular issue. Example: National Health Care, prayer in public schools
The Formation of Public Opinion • Public Affairs includes only those views that include relate to public opinion. • Public Opinion involves only the views people have on matters of government and politics. Example: taxes, foreign policy, candidates.
The Formation of Public Opinion What Shapes Our Public Opinion? • Family-parents • Schools- example: pledge of allegiance, government class • Mass Media • Peer Groups • Opinion Leaders- example: Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, ministers • Historic Events-Great Depression, Civil Rights Movement
Measuring Public Opinion How is Public Opinion Measured? • Elections-Mandate-instructions or commands a constituency gives to elected officials. • Interest Groups • The Media • Personal Contacts • Polls-polls are taken to measure the public’s attitudes and viewpoints
Measuring Public Opinion Types of Polls • Straw Polls • Scientific Polling-the most reliable measurement of public opinion • Quota Samples
The Role of Mass Media • A medium is a means of communication. Media is the plural of medium • Television-the top source of political information (80%) The rise of 24 hour cable news (Fox News or CNN) • Internet- rising as people’s preferred source of political news • Newspapers-formerly widely used source of political news but have lost some readers due to television and internet • Radio • Magazines
The Role of Mass Media • Public Agenda- the societal problems that political leader and citizens agree need government attention. • Electoral Politics-Television allows candidates to appeal directly with the people and has led to the decline of the importance of political parties. • Newscast often use sound bites to feature candidates.
Limits on Media Influence • Only 15% of people who vote are considered well informed about the issues • Voters are selective in what they watch, listen to and read. They typically ignore sources with which they do not agree • Advertisers-few public affair shows air in prime time-exceptions would be 20/20 or 60 minutes • Radio and TV rarely give in depth coverage of the news-they mostly skim the news-In depth coverage is only available to those who want it and seek it out