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The People’s President? Public Opinion and Presidential Policy.

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Presentation on theme: "The People’s President? Public Opinion and Presidential Policy."— Presentation transcript:

1 The People’s President? Public Opinion and Presidential Policy

2 I. A Public Agenda? A. A Poll-Driven Agenda for America

3 NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll conducted by the polling organizations of Peter Hart (D) and Bill McInturff (R). Jan , N=1,007 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3.1 (for all adults). "In general, do you think that it is a good idea or a bad idea to change the Social Security system to allow workers to invest their Social Security contributions in the stock market?" GoodBad Idea IdeaUnsure %% 1/13-17/ /9-13/ Social Security: Don’t Privatize

4 2. Gay Marriage Recognize?

5 "Do you think marriages between homosexuals should or should not be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages?" (N=499, MoE ± 5)

6 B. Gay Marriage Recognize? NO Amend Constitution?

7 "Would you support or oppose amending the United States Constitution to ban same- sex marriage?“ Support Oppose Unsure %% 12/7-12/ /18-22/ /16-22/

8 B. Gay Marriage Recognize? NO Amend Constitution? NO (No Supermajority) Civil Unions?

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10 B. Gay Marriage Recognize? NO Amend Constitution? NO (No Supermajority) Civil Unions? YES

11 3. Death Penalty: Favor "Are you in favor of the death penalty for a person convicted of murder?" (N=519, MoE ± 5)

12 4. Taxes: Cut

13 "Do you consider the amount of federal income tax you have to pay as too high, about right, or too low?"

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15 5. Guns: Restrict

16 "In general, do you feel that the laws covering the sale of firearms should be made more strict, less strict, or kept as they are now?"

17 6. Abortion: Well, sometimes….

18 7. Foreign Policy a. Spreading Democracy:

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20 7. Foreign Policy a. Spreading Democracy: Very Low Priority b. War:

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22 7. Foreign Policy a. Spreading Democracy: Very Low Priority b. War: OK for oil, Not OK for democracy

23 B. Is This The Right Course? Let Social Security be Gays: No marriage (but no amendment either) – civil unions are OK Cut taxes Restrict guns and impose death penalty Allow abortion for any physical/mental health reason – but not for economic reasons Fight for oil, but not allies (Korea) or democracy

24 C. Problems with the list 1. Ignores salience: Relative importance of issues (example: Balancing the budget)

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26 C. Problems with the list 1. Ignores salience: Relative importance of issues (example: Balancing the budget) 2. Ignores information: Public uninformed on many issues

27 a. Public Perceives High Levels of Aid

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29 b. Actual Aid Is Low as % of Budget

30 C. Problems with the list 1. Ignores salience: Relative importance of issues (example: Balancing the budget) 2. Ignores information: Public uninformed on many issues 3. Ignores trade-offs: Limited resources to achieve many goals

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32 C. Problems with the list 1. Ignores salience: Relative importance of issues (example: Balancing the budget) 2. Ignores information: Public uninformed on many issues 3. Ignores trade-offs: Limited resources to achieve many goals 4. Ignores incoherence: Arrow’s Theorem a. Focus: How to aggregate individual opinions into societal opinion

33 b. Conclusion: Sometimes no stable majority exists Example: Three voters decide between three policies (A,B,C) Voter 1 ranks them A (best), B (so-so), C (worst) Voter 2 ranks them B (best), C (so-so), A (worst) Voter 3 ranks them C (best), A (so-so), B (worst) SOCIETY:  A defeats B  B defeats C  C defeats A!  Rinse and repeat…

34 II. A Model of Public Influence People and Groups Pressure

35 A. Agenda-Setting 1. Proposing alternatives to the status quo Status Quo: The way things are (the current system) 2. Goal: “A seat at the table”

36 B. Executive Action: Implement, Promote, or Oppose Suggested Changes 1. Domestic Policy: Requires cooperation 2. Foreign Policy: Immediate action possible

37 C. Citizen Response 1.Media Communicates Government Action… 2.Citizens Respond a.Voting: Retrospective punishments/rewards or prospective fears/hopes b.Political Behavior: Protests, Noncompliance, etc. c.Interest Group Formation: How does this happen?

38 III. Implications of the Model A. Agenda-Setting: Who has power to set the agenda? 1. Individuals: Little power a. “Write a letter to your representative:” Try it! b. Initiative: Can you personally gather 10,000 signatures? c. Demands: Do single-person protests work? d. Run for office: Officials can set agenda

39 2. Unorganized Groups: Little Power a. No spokespeople – Who really speaks for: African-Americans? Consumers? Whites? b. Lack of credible commitment i. No means to coordinate behavior: Little conditional support ii. Cannot be held to promises: No one to punish c. Free-riding and limited resources i. Incentive to enjoy benefits of group pressure ii. Incentive to avoid paying costs of group pressure iii. No single person’s contribution makes a difference (Assumes large groups) iv. Result: No one is willing to contribute resources on behalf of the group objective

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41 3. Organized Interest Groups: Powerful a. Spokespeople and Credible Commitment – Preconditions for bargaining b. Outreach -- Publicity, Money, Media Access allow mobilization of many individuals c. Organization Overcomes Free-Rider Problem i. Selective Incentives to Contribute ii. Small leadership, highly motivated d. Persuasion – Commission studies and recruit experts

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43 4. Examples of Agenda-Setting Copyright Reform:  Invited to working groups: Commerce Department, Tech Companies, Copyright Holders  Who is absent here? Energy Policy: Just who was on that “energy task force?” HMO Reform: The “Health Benefits Coalition” (Association of HMOs) vs. Association of Trial Lawyers of America

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45 B. Government Action: How much autonomy do government officials have? 1.Officials manipulate interest groups (shake- down) 2.President: Most influence where interest groups weakest (foreign policy)

46 C. Media: From Presidential Policy to Public Perceptions 1. “Hostile Media Effect” – Most people think media is biased against their side 2. Systematic Bias: a. Partisan Bias (preference for one party): Appears to be rare (ratios of positive:negative stories about each party roughly similar) b. Ideological Bias (preference for left or right) i. Some studies find right-wing (Fox, WSJ) or left-wing (NYT, CSM) bias BUT ii. Differences in news reports are quite small: Owners are conservative but reporters tend to be liberal iii. Opinion/editorial biases much more pronounced

47 c. Citation Bias: Do reporters choose biased sources?

48 d. Politically-neutral biases i. Spin Bias: Great deal of evidence suggests focus on sensational events and scandals ii. Official Source Bias: Government sources overrepresented, particularly in foreign affairs stories (limited information, desire to preserve contacts)

49 e. Effect of Bias: Remarkably Small i. Selection Effect: People choose to watch news sources with which they agree ii. Example: Availability of Fox News did not increase pro-conservative views among viewers. Instead, people who were already conservative tuned in. iii. “Neutral” Biases (Spin and Official Source) probably most influential: hard to filter out

50 D. Citizen Response: What reception does government action encounter? 1. Individuals: Little Power a. Voting: Prospective or Retrospective? b. Non-Compliance: May provide individual autonomy 2. Unorganized Groups: Powerful If Large a. Bloc Voting: Powerful b. Protest i. Vulnerable to Free-Riding ii. Dangers of unorganized protests c. Noncompliance: “Hydra” vs. “Divide and Conquer”

51 3. Organized Interest Groups: Powerful a. Advertising: Mobilize many individuals

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53 3. Organized Interest Groups: Powerful a. Advertising: Mobilize many individuals b. Funding: “Vote” with a fat wallet

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55 3. Organized Interest Groups: Powerful a. Advertising: Mobilize many individuals b. Funding: “Vote” with a fat wallet c. Protest: i. Selective Incentives Strengthen Protests ii. Do interest-group protests work? d. Non-Compliance: Creates organizational liability

56 E. Summary: Comparing Political Power

57 1. Individuals

58 1. Individuals -- Powerless alone

59 2. Unorganized Groups

60 2. Unorganized Groups -- Must be considered, but can’t set agenda

61 3. Organized Interest Groups

62 3. Organized Interest Groups -- Set agenda and shape citizen response

63 4. Refining the Model

64 F. Lessons: How to Initiate Political Change 1. Organize: Define decision-making process and membership 2. Gather resources: People, Money, Connections 3. Attract sponsorship and/or Create selective incentives for contribution 4. Approach government officials with detailed policy and proof of power

65 III. How do Presidents Respond to Aggregate Public Opinion? What is the effect of “job performance” ratings on Presidential behavior?

66 A. Measuring Approval 1. Never rely on one poll: Margins of Error

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68 A. Measuring Approval 1. Never rely on one poll: Margins of Error 2. Are the polls biased?

69 Which polls can be trusted?

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71 Error vs. Bias: Compare Clinton Fox over-estimated Bush popularity, Zogby underestimated Bush popularity Was this political bias? Estimates of Clinton popularity 

72 A. Measuring Approval 1. Never rely on one poll: Margins of Error 2. Are the polls biased? 3. General trend: Most Presidents gradually lose support over time (exceptions: Reagan, Clinton) 4. Other determinants: Economy, Foreign Affairs, Scandals

73 Comparison: Recent Two-Term Presidents

74 B. How Does the President React to the Data? 1. High Approval: Presidential agenda becomes bolder: broad legislative proposals, more frequent vetoes, more frequent use of military force 2. Low Approval: Presidents more willing to compromise with Congress 3. Presidents use major speeches to increase approval (3%-6% short-term boost)


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