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Unit 6 Visuals Mass Media Public Opinion Interest Groups.

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1 Unit 6 Visuals Mass Media Public Opinion Interest Groups

2 Public Opinion ?? Definition:
Public opinion is a complex collection of the opinions of many different people – it is the sum of all of their views.

3 Different Publics Many publics exist in the United States: How is each one made up? Those individuals who hold the same view on some particular public issue. Notice this important point: NOT many issues capture the attention of all; or nearly all Americans.

4 Public Affairs Public opinion includes only those views that relate to public affairs. DEFINE public affairs: Includes politics, public issues and the making of public policy.

5 Expressed Public opinion is so complex that it cannot readily be defined. Public opinion can be expressed in a variety of ways: Newspaper, , vote, billboard, a film, a protest demonstration.

6 Forming Opinion Each of us learns our political opinions and we do so in a lifelong “classroom” and from many different “teachers”. Public opinion is formed out of a very complex process and the factors involved in it are almost infinite.

7 The Family Most parents (and family members) do not think of themselves as agents of political socialization, however they are very important in this process. How can children learn politics from their family? Hear what their parents say, watch same TV news and shows, etc.

8 The Schools The start of formal schooling marks the initial break in the influence of the family. Schools teach children the values of the American political system. What is an important part of the educational system? Help students understand the importance of good citizenship.

9 Mass Media DEFINE: Means of communication that reaches a widely dispersed audience. Television is the best example of mass media.

10 Peer Groups How can peer groups influence opinions?
Peer groups are made up of the people with whom one regularly associates. (friends, classmates, neighbors, co-workers) How can peer groups influence opinions? People trust the views of their friends. Peer groups share many of the same socializing experiences.

11 Opinion Leaders DEFINE: any person who has an unusually strong influence on the views of others. Many hold public office, some write for newspapers or magazines, or broadcast their views on radio or TV. Opinion leaders also come from occupations or religious organizations.

12 Historic Events Can have a major impact on the views of large numbers of people and also on the content and direction of public policy. Example = Great Depression Persuaded a large majority of Americans to support a much larger role for government in the nation’s economic and social life.

13 Historic Events In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Vietnam and Watergate produced a dramatic decline in the American people’s trust in their government.

14 Measuring Opinion Some effort must be made to measure public opinion; the following provide some degree of means of measurement:

15 Elections Measure Problem with
When a party or candidate claims a mandate, this refers to the instructions or commands a constituency gives to its elected officials. Voters choose a candidate for any of several reasons – not just on stances for public issues/questions.

16 Interest Groups Measure Problem with
Private organizations whose members share certain views and work to shape the making and the content of public policy. How many people do they actually represent? How strongly do they hold their views?

17 Media Measure Problem with The media are frequently described as “mirrors” as well as “molders” of opinion. Reflect the views of a vocal minority.

18 Personal Contacts Measure Problem with Members of Congress receive bags of mail, 100s of phone calls and s everyday. They also conduct public meetings. Can public officials find the “voice” of the people in all of those contacts.

19 Polls Public opinion is best measured by public opinion polls:
Devices that attempt to collect information by asking people questions.

20 Straw Votes What is the problem with the straw vote?
Asking the same question of a large number of people to read the public’s mind - these are still fairly common today, however, not to reliable. What is the problem with the straw vote? Not a good cross-section of the total population.

21 Scientific Polls Serious efforts to take the public’s pulse on a scientific basis date from the mid-1930s. Most of the more than 1000 scientific polls deal with commercial work, but 200 deal with politics What are among the best known? Gallup - Rasmussen - Harris

22 The Polling Process Scientific poll-taking is an extremely complex process that can best be described in (5) basic steps: Define the Universe Constructing a Sample Preparing Valid Questions Interviewing Analyze and Report Findings

23 Step 1 Defining the Universe:
The ‘Universe’ is a term that means the whole population that the poll aims to measure.

24 Step 2 Constructing a Sample:
In most cases, it is not possible to interview a complete universe, so the pollster must select a sample – representative slice of total universe. Most professional pollsters draw a random sample How does this work? Random people who live in a certain number of randomly selected places are selected.

25 Step 2… 1500 is the number of people usually interviewed for a national poll. What is the margin of error in these polls? +/- 3

26 Step 3 Preparing Valid Questions:
The way in which questions are worded is very important because the wording can affect the reliability of any poll. How do reliable pollsters attempt to make valid questions? Do not use loaded, emotionally charged words Avoid questions that tend to shape the answers that are given.

27 Step 4 Interviewing: Most polls are taken face to face, but there is an increase in the amount of telephone and mail polls. What is the important element in whatever method is used? Same method or technique is used with all respondents.

28 Step 5 Analyze and Report Findings:
Scientific polling organizations collect huge amounts of data and use technology to tabulate, interpret, and eventually publish the findings.

29 Evaluation Polls Most responsible pollsters are aware that their polls are far from perfect and acknowledge that fact. Pollsters have a difficult time measuring the following: Intensity – strength or feeling with which opinion is held Stability – the relative permanence/stableness of an opinion Relevance – how important a particular opinion is to the person who holds it.

30 Mass Media

31 Role of Mass Media DEFINE medium:
Means of communication The four major mass media (ranked in terms of impact) are: Television, newspapers, radio and magazines.

32 Media + Government The mass media are NOT part of the government:
However - they are an important force in politics because people acquire most of the information about the government from the various forms of media.

33 Television Replaced newspapers as the principal source of American political information in the early 1960s. The major networks have dominated TV from its infancy: CBS, ABC, and NBC.

34 Television The major network’s audience share has been declining in recent years and the challenge has come form (3) sources: Independent broadcast groups = Fox News Cable broadcasts = CNN Public Broadcasting Service

35 Newspapers Rank second as the public’s primary source of information about government and politics. What advantage does a newspaper have over TV? Stories are covered in greater depth and with various points of view.

36 Newspapers Most papers are local ones, covering local stories, but technology is changing this with on-line versions of major newspapers available.

37 Radio By the 1930s, the radio was a major entertainment medium and millions of people planned their day around their favorite programs. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first major public figure to use radio effectively. (Fireside chats during the Depression).

38 Radio Many people felt that the arrival of TV would bring to an end the radio as a major medium, but why has radio survived? Radio is very “convenient” and “available”

39 Magazines The Progressive Reform era in the early 1900s spawned several journals of opinion, including articles by many leading muckrakers. 3 news magazines Time, Newsweek, and US News and World Report have a combined circulation of 10 million copies a week.

40 Media + Politics Clearly the media play a significant role in American politics, but just how significant that role is, is the subject of long, still unsettled debate. The media’s influence can be seen most visibly in (2) areas:

41 The Public Agenda The media play a large role in shaping the public agenda: DEFINE: societal problems that the nation’s public leaders and the general public agree need government attention The media determine to a vary large extent what public issues the people will think and talk about. They have power to focus peoples attention on a particular issue.

42 Electoral Politics TV has made candidates for office less dependent on political parties because with TV, they can appeal directly to the people. Candidates regularly try to manipulate media coverage to their advantage (most people learn about a candidate from TV).

43 Electoral Politics What are sound bites ?
snappy 30 – 45 seconds reports How do good campaign managers use them? Show candidates doing something exciting in a short period of time (News does not want long)

44 Media Influence A number of built in factors work to limit the media’s impact on the behavior of the American voting public: Few people follow national or local political events closely, so few people understand what the media has to say about public affairs

45 Media Influence 2. Most people who pay attention are selective about the media the watch or read What does this mean? They watch what they agree with.

46 Media Influence Not really in depth coverage – just short stories.
3. Most TV programs have little or nothing to do with public affairs, more people are interested in being entertained than being informed. 4. Radio and TV mostly ‘skim’ the news – What does this mean? Not really in depth coverage – just short stories.


48 Interest Groups Definition: private organization that tries to persuade public officials to respond to the shared attitudes of its members. Also known as Special Interest or Pressure Groups

49 Role of Interest Groups
Organized efforts to protect group interests are a fundamental part of the democratic process. Whatever the call themselves, the interests seek to influence the making and the content of public policy. Where do these groups operate? Wherever policies are made or can be influenced (basically at every level of government)

50 Political Parties + Interest Groups
Political parties and Interest groups differ from each other in 3 striking respects: In the making of nominations In their primary focus In the scope of their interests

51 Nominations The parties nominate candidates for public office.
What would happen if an interest group nominated a candidate? They would become a political party. Interests groups try to affect the outcomes of primaries and other nominating contests by openly supporting a candidate.

52 Primary Focus Political parties want to win elections and control the government. What are interest groups concerned with? Influencing or controlling the policies of government Parties focus on candidates Interest Groups on issues.

53 Scope of Interest Political parties are concerned with the whole range of public affairs, with everything of concern to voters. Interest groups always concentrate only on those issues that most directly affect the interests of their members.

54 Access to Interest Groups
What about access to interest groups? They are private organizations and are not accountable to the public.

55 Good or Bad Do interest groups pose a threat to the well being of the political system… Or are they a valuable part of the American political system? James Madison warned against the dangers of “factions”, but why did he feel that none would become a dominating influence? They would counter-balance each other Alex de Tocqueville was impressed by the vast number of organizations he found in the United States.

56 Good or Bad? Valuable Function Criticisms
Help to stimulate public affairs – those issues and events that concern the people at large. Interest groups raise awareness of public policy affairs. Interest groups have influence far out of proportion with their size or importance/contribution of the public good.

57 Good or Bad? Valuable Function Criticisms
Represent their members on the basis of shared attitudes rather than on the basis of geography. Hard to tell just who or how many people a group really represents.

58 Good or Bad? Valuable Function Criticisms
Provide useful, specialized and detailed information on the government. Do not represent the views of all the people whom they claim to speak for.

59 Good or Bad? Interest groups are vehicles for political participation.
Valuable Function Criticisms Interest groups are vehicles for political participation. Some groups use tactics that could undermine the political system: Bribery Revenge

60 Good or Bad? Valuable Function They add another element to the checks-and-balances feature of the political process. They compete with one another in the political arena.

61 An American Tradition The United States has often been called a nation of joiners and no one really knows how many associations exist in the US today. Interests groups are founded on a variety of ideas: economic (the most), geographic, political, ideological or groups that promote its own welfare.

62 Based on Economic Interests
Most interest groups are formed on the basis of economic interests or the manner in which people make their living.

63 Business Groups What is the oldest organized interest group still at work today? US Brewers Association Most segments of the business community also have their own interest groups called trade associations. How come these business groups are not always together on issues? They often disagree and fight over what the government gives out.

64 Labor Groups A labor union is an organization of workers who share the same type of job or who work in the same industry. They press the government for policies that will benefit its members. What has happened to the labor recently? Membership has been declining in recent years.


66 Labor Groups Organized labor generally speaks with one voice on such matters as Social Security programs, minimum wages, and unemployment. When does labor oppose labor? White Collar vs Blue Collar Section vs Section Product vs Transportation

67 Agricultural Groups Farmer’s influence on the government’s agricultural policies is and has been enormous.

68 Professional Groups Defined as those occupations that require extensive and specialized training. How do they compare to the business, labor and farm groups? Not nearly as large, well organized, well financed or effective

69 Professional Groups (3) groups are, however, an exception to the rule:
American Medical Association (AMA) – physicians American Bar Association (ABA) - lawyers National Education Association (NEA) - teachers Each of these organizations has a very real impact on public policies, and at every level of government.

70 Other Interest Groups Groups that formed for reasons other than economic concerns also have a great deal of political clout. A large number of groups exist to promote a cause or an idea; here are some of the major ones:

71 Interest Groups American Civil Liberties Union The Sierra Club
Fights in court for civil and political rights The Sierra Club Focus on conservation and environment National Rifle Association Fights for the rights of gun owners.

72 Focus on Specific Group
A number of interest groups seek to promote the welfare of a certain segment of the population. (Their name usually indicates whom!) VFW (war veterans) NAACP (African Americans AARP (senior citizens)

73 Religious Organizations
Religious organizations also try to influence public policy in several important areas.

74 Public Interest Groups
Definition: Interest group that seeks to institute certain public policies of benefit to most or all people. Among the best known and most active are Common Cause and several organizations that make up Ralph Nader’s Public Citizen Inc.

75 Influencing Public Opinion
Interest groups regularly reach out to the public to accomplish one or all of (3) major goals: Supply the public with information an organization thinks the people should have. To build a positive image for the group. To promote a particular public policy

76 Propaganda Interest groups try to create the public attitudes they want by using propaganda. DEFINE propaganda: Technique of persuading aimed at influencing individual or group behavior.

77 Propaganda To be successful, propaganda must be presented in simple, interesting, and credible terms. How do talented propagandists attack a policy they oppose? Attack with name calling or presenting only one side of the issue.

78 Propaganda Using symbols (flags, Uncle Sam) and testimonials from TV stars or athletes are often used. The bandwagon approach (follow the crowd) or the plain folks approach (pretend to be with common people) are favorite techniques. How is propaganda spread? Newspapers, radio, television, Internet, movies, etc.

79 Influence Leaders of interest groups know that political parties play a central role in selecting those people who make public-policy decisions. How do interest groups attempt to influence the behavior of political parties? Be active in party affairs or take leadership positions in a party.

80 Influence An interest group’s election tactics often have to involve some very finely tuned decisions. If they support a candidate and that candidate loses, will there be backlash? How can interest groups help a candidate? Donate money through Political Action Committee’s

81 Influence Single-Interest Groups have grown rapidly in the past 20 years. These are PACs that communicate one issue (abortion, gun control, etc) What is the single-interest group’s focus? Organized or concentrate on ONE ISSUE

82 Lobbying Lobbying is usually defined as those activities by which group pressures are brought to bear on legislators and the legislative process. Realistically, lobbying includes all of the methods by which group pressures are brought to bear on all aspects of the public policy-making process. Nearly all of the important organized interests have lobbyists in Washington DC.

83 Lobbyists at Work What is the major task for a lobbyist?
Work for those matters that benefit their clients + against those that may harm them. A lobbyist’s effectiveness depends in large part on his/her knowledge of the political system – many are former legislatures or lawyers.

84 Lobbyists at Work Most lobbyists know how to bring “grass-roots” pressure to bear. What are Grassroots? Term meaning “of or from the people”

85 Lobbyists at Work Several interests groups publish ratings of members of Congress. These rankings are based on votes cast on measures crucial to their interests. Use the mass media to publicize these ratings. Why do lobbyists want to be as accurate and honest as possible? Do not want to damage or destroy their credibility and effectiveness.

86 Lobby Regulation Lobbying abuses do occur now and then, false or misleading testimony, bribery and other unethical pressures do happen from time to time.

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