What is Public Opinion? • Complex collection of the opinions of many different people (on public Affairs) • Misconceptions of Public Opinion: • Belief all or most people have the same view • The public favors this or that • Very few matters all or most of “the People” agree on • Must involve something of general concern and a significant portion of the people
Different Publics • Believe it or not there are different Publics… • Each issues has a “public” • National health care; President is doing an excellent/terrible job; Capital punishment should be abolished • Belong to more than one
Different Publics: • Not many Issues capture the attention of “ALL” Americans • Name one???? • Public Opinion includes ONLY those views related to PUBLIC AFFAIRS • Politics, public issues, making public policy
Family And Education • Your not born with your values • Political Opinions are learned • From mom and dad • Teachers/schools • Education • Friends • Experiences and relationships
Other Factors • Weight of each factor that influences public opinion depends on the issue • Mass Media • Peer groups • Opinion leaders • Historic events
Other Factors: • Means of communication that reach large, widely dispersed audiences • Television: • 98% households = 1 T.V. • Turned on for 7 hours a day • Peer Groups • People who you talk too regularly • Reinforces what a person has already come to believe
Other Factors: • Opinion Leaders • A person who has unusually strong influence on the views of others (draw ideas and conventions) • Hold public office • Newspapers • Magazines • Historical Events • Great Depression ( role of government) • 60’s and 70’s traumatic events; resignation of Nixon • Evaluated trustworthiness of government
Measuring Public Opinion • Elections • Voting • Lobbying • Books • Pamphlets • Editorial comments in the Press • Public Officials
Measuring Public Opinion • Elections • Results are indicator of Public Opinion? • People’s approval/rejection • Parties claim a mandate • Refers to the instructions or commands a constituency gives its elected officials • “Elections are, at best, only useful indicators of public opinion.” • Represents only a GENERAL directions parties should take
Measuring Public Opinion • Interest Groups: • Private organizations whose members share certain views and objectives and work to shape making and the content of public policy • The Media • “mirrors” or “molders” • Reflect only the views of the vocal majority
Measuring Public Opinion • Personal Contacts • “read the publics mind” • “voice of the people?” • Contacts with the public
Poll- the “Best” Measure • Straw vote is a method of polling that seeks to read the public’s mind simply by asking the same question of a large number of people. • The straw-vote technique is highly unreliable, however.
Poll- the “Best” Measure • Scientific Polling • Serious efforts to take the public’s pulse on a scientific basis date from the 1930s. • There are now more than 1,000 national and regional polling organizations in this country, with at least 200 of these polling political preferences.
The Polling Process • Five things pollsters must do • Define the universe to be surveyed • Construct a sample • Prepare valid questions • Select and control how the poll will be taken • Analyze and report their findins to the public
Polling Process • Defining the Universe • Whole population the poll aims to measure • Every high school student in Georgia • Atlanta voters • Constructing a Sample • A representative slice of the total universe • Random samples • 1500 people • Quota sample • Sample deliberately constructed to reflect several of the major characteristics of a given universe
Polling Process • Preparing Valid Questions • Wording can affect the reliability of any poll • “Should local taxes be reduced?” • “”Should the city’s police force be increased to fight rising tide of crime in our community?” • Ask loaded questions, emotionally charged words, terms that are difficult to understand
Polling Process • Interviewing • Telephone: calls are placed randomly chosen area codes around the nation • Less labor intensive/less expensive • Tone of voice • Emphasis given to certain words • Responses are given to “please” the pollster
Polling Process • Analyze and Report findings • Collect huge amounts of raw data • Computers • Other election hardware • Tabulate and interpret data; draw conclusions; report findings
Evaluating Polls • Most national and regional polls are fairly reliable. (they are far from perfect.) • Potential problems with polls • Inability to measure the intensity, stability, and relevance of the opinions they report. • polls and pollsters sometimes shape the opinions they are supposed to measure.
Limits on the Impact of Public Opinion • Public opinion is the major, but by no means the only, influence on public policy in this country. • American political system is designed to protect minority interests against the excesses of majority views and actions. • Polls are not elections, nor are they substitutes for elections.
The Role of Mass Media • Medium • Means of communication; transmits some kind of information • Four Major Kinds in US • Television • Newspaper • Radio • Magazines • Internet is increasing more important every year….replacing newspapers
The Role of Mass Media • Presents people with political information • Directly in news reports • Less direct: radio, television, newspaper stories, magazine articles
Role of Mass Media • Television: • Replaced Newspapers as the principal source of political information • NBC, ABC, CBS • Others: CNN, PBS, etc • Newspapers: • Freedom of Press • # of papers continues to Decline with rise of internet
Role of Mass Media • Radio: • 1930’s Major entertainment and political information center • President F. Roosevelt: 1st to use radio effectively • 20 hours of radio a week • Talk Radio • Political commentaries
Role of Mass Media • Magazines: • 12,000 published in U.S. today • Time, Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report
The Media and Politics • Public Agenda • Societal problems that the nation’s political leaders and the general public agree need government attention • Focus public on a particular issue • Don’t tell you what to think but what to think about • Political leaders pay close attention to Media
Electoral Politics • Make candidates less dependent on party organizations • Appeal directly to the people • Create their own image • Strategy: • Take no more than a minute or two of air time • Show people doing something interesting and exciting • Sound Bites: snappy reports that can be aired 30-45 seconds