Chapter 5: Public Opinion and Political Participation • Public Opinions • On What Americans Agree and Disagree • Political Socialization • Political Participation
What Is Public Opinion? • Public opinion is the term used to denote an array of beliefs and attitudes that people have about issues, events, and personalities. • We need to understand what factors shape public opinion.
An Opinionated Public • Americans possess a wide range of opinions on political matters. • This is particularly true for salient issues. • Salient issues are those issues that are important to that individual.
Political Trust • Which social/governmental institutions do Americans Trust - • 1 Military 90% • 2 Big Business 82% • 3 Civil Servants 80% • 4 Church 74% • 5 Labor Unions 72% • 6 TV News 68% • 7 Congress 67% • 8 Press 62%
Americans at Odds • Liberty • In abstract and in reality • Equality • Opportunity, results, and treatment • Majority rule with Minority Rights • Economics - Free Market System • Polarization • Political Ideology • Income and education
How We Form Public Opinion • Political Knowledge • The Influence of Political Leaders, Private Groups, and the Media • Political Socialization - how most people acquire their political attitudes, opinions and beliefs.
Agents of Political Socialization • The forces that are engaged in political socialization are referred to as agents. • These agents include — family, — education, — social peer groups, — political conditions, — government, — media.
Family • Most people acquire their initial orientations toward government from their family. • Differences in family background, opinions, and child rearing will ultimately affect your political and social values and beliefs.
Social Groups • Involuntary — gender — race • Voluntary — political parties — labor unions — occupational groups
Education • Education used to convey a common set of civic values. • Yet schools are often seen as “boot camps” because they stress order and compliance. • College education stresses participation and democratic values.
Government and Public Opinion • All governments attempt to influence, manipulate, or manage their citizens’ beliefs. • Nationalism and encouraging participation allow citizens to buy into the system.
Private Groups and Public Opinion • Interest groups also attempt to mobilize the public to support their own issues and to put pressure on government officials.
The Media and Public Opinion • The communication media are among the most powerful forces operating in the market place of ideas.
Measuring Public Opinion • Constructing Public Opinion from Surveys • Public Opinion, Political Knowledge, and the Importance of Ignorance
Measuring Public Opinion:Questions • How can public opinion be measured? • What problems arise from public opinion polling?
Constructing Public Opinion from Surveys • Public opinion polls are scientific instruments for measuring public opinion. • To be accurate, the poll must be based on a representative sample of the population. • The validity of the poll depends on the sampling procedure used. • Straw polls - not representative polls
Problems with Polls • The good citizen response • The bandwagon effect • Inconsistent responses • Push polls • Survey wording
Electoral Participation • Political Participation • Political activities whose purpose is to support and influence those within government. • Simplest most common is voting • Turn out low in US • 1996 49% • 1998 25% • 2000 51 %
Efficacy - ability to produce results Internal political efficacy - feeling that you have the skills to influence policy External political efficacy - feeling government is responsive to your input Sense of Duty - good citizens get involved in politics. Conventional participation - legal Unconventional participation - unusual and may be illegal Forms of Political Participation
Modes of Participation • Voters - minimal, easiest 50% • Contactors - contact officials 25% • Campaigners - volunteer time 15% • Community activists - group joiners 20% • Protesters - use legal and illegal methods • marched, rallies, boycotts 5% • civil disobedience • political terrorism • Complete activists - engage in all forms of participation 11%
Rational Actor Model • Weighing cost of participating against the benefits received - voting. • Collective efforts can reduce costs. • Minority groups uses of collective protest to have their concerns heard can be an example of a rational approach to participation. • Electoral Vote Poll