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Public Opinion. John Hernandez March 23, 2006. What is Public Opinion?. Views held by a significant portion of a population Concerns topics of public interest Demonstrates consensus Influenced by mass media Great interest to policymakers Measured by polls & surveys. Two Flavors of Data.

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public opinion

Public Opinion

John Hernandez

March 23, 2006

what is public opinion
What is Public Opinion?
  • Views held by a significant portion of a population
  • Concerns topics of public interest
  • Demonstrates consensus
  • Influenced by mass media
  • Great interest to policymakers
  • Measured by polls & surveys
two flavors of data
Two Flavors of Data
  • Macro-level
    • Snapshots, trends & narrative reports
    • Summary stats on responses
    • Example: 35% yes, 45% no, 20% don’t know
  • Micro-level
    • Numeric data files
    • Individual survey responses
    • Subject to further analysis (i.e. cross-tabs) assuming large enough sample
some terminology
Some Terminology
  • Population or universe
    • The target group you want to describe
    • Example: U.S. voting age population
  • Sample
    • Randomly selected (equal chance of being picked)
    • Not everyone in sample responds
  • Response rate
    • Percentage of sample who respond to survey
some terminology5
Some Terminology
  • Weighting
    • Adjusting numbers to be more representative
  • Margin of error
    • Measures error due to sampling
    • +/– 3 percentage points is typical for large samples (n=>800) @ 95% level
    • 95% of the time, the same survey with another sample would yield results within 3 percentage points
sources of error
Sources of Error
  • Sampling error
    • Sample was not chosen at random
  • Measurement error
    • Flaws in the instrument and/or implementation
  • Response bias
    • Respondents’ answers differ from their true beliefs
  • Non-response bias
    • Can yield unrepresentative samples
history of public opinion polls
History of Public Opinion Polls
  • “Straw” polls, 1820s-1930s
    • Unrepresentative & self-selected samples
  • Literary Digest presidential election polls, 1920-1936
    • Wrongly predicts Alfred Landon will beat FDR for president
  • Scientific polling, 1936-
    • Gallup, Roper & Crossley
    • Random & representative sampling
history of public opinion polls8
History of Public Opinion Polls
  • Academic research, 1940s-
    • Paul Lazarsfeld
      • Bureau of Applied Social Research – Columbia Univ.
    • National Opinion Research Center (NORC) - Univ. of Chicago
    • Roper Center – Univ. of Conn.
    • Survey Research Center – Univ. of Michigan
history of public opinion polls9
History of Public Opinion Polls
  • Modern political polling, 1950s-
    • Louis Harris & Daniel Yankelovich
    • Private polls for campaigns, policy preferences & presidential approval
  • News & media outlets, 1970s-
    • ABC/Washington Post
    • CBS/New York Times
    • NBC/Wall Street Journal
    • CNN/USA Today
beyond the united states
Beyond the United States
  • Reaction to U.S. foreign policy
  • International relations
  • Foreign aid
  • Globalization
  • Domestic policies
  • Immigration
  • Religious, moral & social values
  • Environmental & health issues
  • Political, economic & social development
global barometers
Global Barometers
  • Standardized questions for cross-national comparison
    • Eurobarometer, 1973
    • Central & Eastern Eurobarometer, 1991-1998
    • Latinobarometer, 1995
    • Afrobarometer, 1999
    • Asian Barometer, 2001
major databases
Major Databases
  • iPOLL Databank (Roper)
    • U.S. nationwide polls back to 1935
    • Questions, % responses, and select data files
  • Polling the Nations (ORS)
    • U.S. and over 80 countries back to 1986
    • Questions and % responses
  • Eagleton Poll Archive (Rutgers)
    • Quarterly polls for NJ residents back to 1971
    • Questions and % responses
    • Crosstabs with other questions
bibliographic tools
Bibliographic Tools
  • Library catalogs
  • Article indexes & databases
    • Sociological Abstracts
    • Worldwide Political Science Abstracts
    • Int’l Bibliography of the Social Sciences
    • Lexis-Nexis Statistical
  • News indexes
    • Lexis-Nexis Academic
    • Newsbank
    • World News Connection
searching by lc subject
Searching by LC Subject
  • “Public opinion”
    • Combine with other headings
    • Subdivided by countries or regions (views held in)
      • Public opinion—India
    • Subheading under other subjects (views about)
      • War on Terrorism, 2001—Public opinion
searching by lc subject15
Searching by LC Subject
  • “Foreign public opinion”
    • Subheading under countries (views about country held elsewhere)
      • United States—Foreign public opinion
  • “Attitudes”
    • Subheading under specific populations (views held by)
      • African Americans—Attitudes
searching by descriptors
Searching by Descriptors
  • Combine with other terms
    • “public opinion”
    • “opinion polls”
    • “political attitudes”
    • “attitudes”
searching by keywords
Searching by Keywords
  • “opinion” OR “attitudes” OR “views”
  • “poll” OR “survey”
  • “favor” OR “support”
  • “oppose” OR “opposition”
  • “position” OR “mood” OR “sentiment”
useful web sites
Useful Web Sites
  • ICPSR (http://www.icpsr.umich.edu)
  • Odum Institute for Research in Social Science – Univ. North Carolina (http://www.irss.unc.edu/data_archive/catsearch.html)
  • Scout Report Archive (http://scout.wisc.edu/Archives/index.php)
  • Data on the Net – UC San Diego (http://odwin.ucsd.edu/idata/)
  • Data & Statistical Services (http://dss.princeton.edu/)
  • Princeton Survey Research Center (http://www.wws.princeton.edu/psrc/)