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FSU POS 1041 - Source of Public Opinion

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Source of Public Opinion• Socializing Agents o Familyo Self-Interesto Level of education –College graduate age 65 and older are more than three times more likely to favor gay marriage than are seniors with less education. Among those age 50-64, college grads are twice as likely to favor gay marriage as there less educated counterparts.o School - Education and school also raise political efficacy, which is the belief that citizens can make a difference by acting politically. o Social Group – Church more than eight to ten opponents of gay marriage (82%) say it runs counter to their religious beliefo MediaFunction of the Mass Media• Socialization – Teaches values and orientation to fit into culture• Also Re-socializes: Ex: sexual morality as displayed by media over timeMeasuring Publix Opinion • Sampling Error – Arises in a survey as a result of relying on a sample of the larger population that is too small (Don’t ask enough people) • Margin Error – A random sample of 1,500 Americans would fall within 3% of national opinion 95% of the time • Selection Bias – Occurs when a sample systematically includes or excludes people with certain attitudes. Such a survey will NOT be representative of the larger population.• Measurement Error – Arises from attempting to measure something as subjective as opinion. Question wording can be: confusing, leading, oversimplified (How can question wording impact opinion on Abortion?)The limits of Public Opinion• Americans are uninformed o On many issues people have little information, in the US and other countrieso Information costs are high• Public Opinion= generally uninformed but o Issue Publics: group of people particularly affected by, or concerned with, a specific issue• Many of the opinions expressed in polls are not strongly heldo Public may say one thing, but when asked again, may seem to say something elseo Non-attitudes; doorstep opinions • Public Opinion s Not Ideological • Ideology –Belief system in which one or more organizing principles connect the individuals views on a wide range of issues.• Political Elites: tend to have well-structured ideologies • Mass public: ordinary citizens usually are NOT Ideological Characteristics of Public Opinion • Public opinion= inconsistent (Ex. California wants a do-over on same sex marriage vote)• Sentiments do not always match principles people claim to endorse• No clear mandate; may only provide confusion • Why this inconsistency?o Ignorance, inaccurate information, hypocrisy o Americans are more pragmatic than absolute in their belief. The Role of Representation• Power of public opinion • Does it influence public policy?o It can accurately reflect publics attitudes and concerns o In the aggregate= very stableo Clear trends are often followed by government• The example of gun control o NRA vs. public (US favors gun control)o Theory: Public opinion of their constituents is key for members of Congress Anti-gun lobby not as intense as pro-gun lobby  Result: No new gun controls measures  What about recently? Defining Some Terms• Franchise – The right to vote • Suffrage – Another term for franchise, or the right to vote A Brief History of Franchise in the Us• Constitution left voter eligibility to the states o White, male property owners• Universal white male suffrage by eve of Civil WarWomen’s Suffrage• Women’s Suffrage was also a slow processo 1890: Women could vote in Wyomino 1920: Women gained the right to vote in every state (19th Amendment)International Comparison of Suffrage• Americans vote at much lower levels than people in other countries• The measurement of turnout voterso In US measured by  Numbers of people for president/number of people in voting –age population Includes felons and unregisteredHow American Institutions Decrease Turnout• Calculations are different in other countries:o Registered population Compulsory versus Motor Votero Votes are sometimes counted differently Frivolous and vulgar votes tossed• Voting is compulsory in some countrieso Australia and Belgium- fine nonvoterso Greek law allows for imprisonment of nonvoterso Italy public shame• Compulsion raises turnout by about 15%• Elections are held on Tuesday; other countries often hold them on Sundays or holidays• US has several elections• Registration sometimes can lead to jury duty Why Has American Turnout Declined?• Puzzle: Why has turned declined when obstacles have been eliminated?o Pre-Civil Rights era barriers are gone Voting Rights Act, 24th Amendment, Poll taxes/Literacy test o Other reforms make access to voting easier Absentee/Bilingual Ballotso Declining Personal Benefitso Declining Mobilization: Efforts of Parties, groups and activists to encourage their supports to participate in politicso Declining Social Connectedness Compositional Effect- A changed in a groups composition, rater than a change in a groups behavior (Immigration) Social Connectedness: The degree to which individuals are integrated into society.Bowling Alone • Civic disengagement Is Low Turnout a Problem?• Three arguments say it is noto Conservative Argument: expect low turnout if there is no controversial issueo Elitist Argument: quality of electoral decisions Is higher if “the masses” don’t voteo Cynical Argument: elections are charades and do not matter.Evaluating the Arguments Turnout:• Some nonvoters are content; others alienated. The same goes for voters• High turnout can men high approval of the political order or serious dissatisfaction with it. • Raising turnout will not “dumb” down the electorate • Low turnout can make the actual electorate less representative, but not as much as assumed.• Bottom Line: low turn is caused for concern but not despair….Outside the Voting Booth • Citizens participate in many ways:o Many work in campaigns, contact public officials, volunteer in their communityo Contribute money, attend local board meetings and engage in political protest.• Why are these more attractive than voting?o Frequency of elections; political culture; temporary activism, protest are a regular part of American politics. The Nature and Origin of Mass Public Opinion• Opinion=information * predispositionInfo from elites• Predisposition whichever socializing agent INFORMATION, PREDISPOSITIONAND OPINION• Citizens are dependent upon “unseen and usually unknown others


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