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Chapter 5: Public Opinion and Political Participation

Chapter 5: Public Opinion and Political Participation. Public Opinions On What Americans Agree and Disagree Political Socialization Political Participation. What Is Public Opinion?.

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Chapter 5: Public Opinion and Political Participation

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  1. Chapter 5: Public Opinion and Political Participation • Public Opinions • On What Americans Agree and Disagree • Political Socialization • Political Participation

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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%

  5. 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

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. Social Groups • Involuntary — gender — race • Voluntary — political parties — labor unions — occupational groups

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. The Media and Public Opinion • The communication media are among the most powerful forces operating in the market place of ideas.

  14. Measuring Public Opinion • Constructing Public Opinion from Surveys • Public Opinion, Political Knowledge, and the Importance of Ignorance

  15. Measuring Public Opinion:Questions • How can public opinion be measured? • What problems arise from public opinion polling?

  16. 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

  17. Problems with Polls • The good citizen response • The bandwagon effect • Inconsistent responses • Push polls • Survey wording

  18. Question Differences

  19. 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 %

  20. 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

  21. 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%

  22. 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

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