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Chapter 9 - Public Opinion and the Media

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1 Chapter 9 - Public Opinion and the Media
Denison Middle 7th grade Civics

2 Chapter 9 Florida Standards
SS.7.C Analyze media and political communications (bias, symbolism, propaganda).   SS.7.C Examine the impact of media, individuals, and interest groups on monitoring and influencing government (The portion of this standard dealing with interest groups were covered in the last TCI chapter).   SS.7.C Evaluate candidates for political office by analyzing their qualifications, experience, issue-based platforms, debates, and political ads (Part of this standard will be covered in the next TCI chapter). SS.7.C Identify America’s current political parties, and illustrate their ideas about government.  SS.7.C Examine multiple perspectives on public and current issues.  LACC.68.RH Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.   LACC.68.RH Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.

3 What is Public Opinion? Public opinion is the sum of many individual opinions, beliefs, or attitudes about a public person or issue.

4 9.1 - Introduction The 1952 presidential campaign was the first to use the new medium of television extensively to reach voters. Adlai Stevenson refused to use commercials while his opponent, Dwight Eisenhower took advantage of this new form of public exposure.

5 Let’s think for a second!
According to the poster, why should people vote for Stevenson? To whom is this poster designed to appeal? Do you think such a poster could actually influence people's views in an election? Page 158

6 9.2 - The Formulation of Public Opinion
The American public consists of over 300 million individuals, each with his or her own personal beliefs, values, attitudes, and opinions.

7 How Do Individuals Form Their Political Opinions?
The opinions that you have on political issues tend to be shaped by deeply held political beliefs and values. The formation of these beliefs comes from the process of political socialization, or learning about the values, beliefs, and processes that underline a political system in order to participate effectively. Many factors play a role in political socialization including agents of socialization, or one’s family, schooling, religion, peer groups, gender and ethnicity, and news media. (Diagram on the right, also on page 161) Historical events also shape a person’s views (E.g.: the views of Americans towards government during the 1950s {positive view} as compared to their views towards government during the 1960s {distrust})

8 What is Public Opinion and How is it Shaped?
Because we know what public opinion is (the sum of many individual opinions about a public person or issue), we can answer the following question: How is public opinion shaped? By special interest groups - These groups represent large numbers of people, therefore they are listened to when they speak on an issue (E.g.: Unions). By journalists, politicians, and other opinion makers - The public doesn’t have the time to be informed about every issue so they rely on public figures for information and advice. By what politicians say it is - Politicians make claims about public opinion.

9 Public Opinion as Guide, Guard, and Glue
Public opinion serves a democratic system of government in 3 ways: Guides leaders as they make decisions about public policy Politicians must listen to public opinion or they will not be re-elected Guards against hasty or poor understood decisions E.g.: Clinton’s attempted reform of the nation’s healthcare system Acts as a glue that holds society together

10 9.3 - Measuring Public Opinion
In 1936, in the depths of the Great Depression, Literacy Digest announced that Alfred Landon would beat FDR in the upcoming presidential election based on their polls. George Gallup, a young pollster, disagreed with this prediction and announced FDR as the winner, publicly challenging newspapers and magazines to show the two polls side by side. Roosevelt ended up winning the election by a landslide, ruining public perception of Literacy Digest and eventually forcing the publisher to file for bankruptcy.

11 From Straw Polls to Scientific Sampling: The Evolution of Opinion Polling
Literacy Digest had had a record of correctly predicting the presidential election since using straw polls A straw poll is an informal survey of opinion conducted by a show of hands or some other mean of counting preferences. The magazine conducted the 1936 straw poll by mailing out more than 10 million ballots for people to fill out with their choice for president. The editors did not take into account that their poll was biased (i.e.: bias is a preference, opinion or attitude that favors one way of thinking or feeling over another). Most of the ballots went to people with telephones or registered automobiles, not accounting for the masses of people who did not have these possessions due to the state of the economy. The mailing letters were sent to a more affluent crowd who tended to be Republican and favored the Republican, Landon.

12 From Straw Polls to Scientific Sampling: The Evolution of Opinion Polling
Gallup’s secret was his use of scientific sampling. Scientific Sampling is the process of selecting a small group of people who are representative of the whole population. This success marked the beginning of the modern opinion poll (i.e.: a method of measuring public opinion by asking questions of a random sample of people and using their answers to represent the views of the broader population).

13 The Polling Process: Sample, Survey and Sum Up
The first step when polling is to identify a population to be surveyed. The target population may be all adults, members of a political party, a certain age group, or people living in one community. Most polling today is done by telephone which ensure that pollsters interview a representative sample of people. In a random sample (i.e.: a group of people selected at random from the general population; used in opinion polling) every individual had the same likelihood of being selected. The number of people surveyed usually ranges from 500 to 1500. The opinions gathered are then summed up and reported. The margin of error indicates how accurately the sample surveyed reflects the views of the target population. E.g.: small margin of error = closer to opinion of target population.

14 The Use of Polling to Measure Public Sentiment
Gallup drew comparisons between public opinion polls and old-fashioned New England town meetings Today, opinion polls are largely used to gather information on public sentiment. E.g.: What do you think is the important problem facing this country today? Politicians use the results of polls to help them develop public policies they hope the public will support.

15 The Use of Polling in Political Campaigns
There are 3 special kinds of polls that are widely used during elections: Benchmark Polls are often used by prospective candidates to “test the waters” before beginning a campaign. Tracking polls are conducted during a campaign to measure support for a candidate on a day-to-day basis. Exit polls are used by campaigns and the news media to predict the winners on election day long before the polls close.

16 Tracking poll Exit Poll

17 The Misuse of Polling to Influence Public Opinion
At times polls are used more to shape than to measure public opinion. The questions in these surveys are often rigged to generate highly favorable results for the sponsor of the poll. Despite criticism by scientific pollsters, some news shows still continue to promote call-in or internet polls and report the results. The 1990s saw the appearance of a highly suspect form of polling called push polling. Push polling are phone surveys made close to Election Day, on behalf of a candidate. The pollsters sound like they want your views on the election but their real purpose is to “push” you away from voting for the candidate’s opponent and to spread damaging information.

18 9.4 - The Impact of the Mass Media on Public Opinion
Mass media can have a large effect on public opinion. By the year 2000, Americans were buying nearly 60 million copies of daily newspapers and 10 thousand copies of weekly or monthly magazines. They listened to nearly 9,000 radio stations and watched an average of 6 hours of television a day.

19 Where Do Americans Get Their News?
A century ago Americans got their news from print media - means of communication that distribute information with paper and ink to a mass audience, particularly newspapers and magazines. By the 1950s, the broadcast media - means of communication that distribute information through the airwaves to a mass audience, particularly radio and television - had become major sources of news. Now, people get instant news from using electronic media - computers, cell phones, and other devices that connect to the world wide web (i.e.: an information system that makes documents stored in computers around the world accessible to users via an Internet connection, also known as “www”).

20 The News Versus the “New” Media
A generation ago, most Americans trusted news media (i.e.: newspapers, news magazines, and broadcast news shows) for information on politics and public affairs. Beginning in the late 1980s, new ways to communicate with the public about politics began to appear. These “new” media include talk radio, television talk shows, television news magazines, televised town hall meetings, and cable shows spoofing the news of the day. Blogs have emerged as a new medium for reporting the news. A blog is a journal or newsletter published on the World Wide Web; short for “Web log”] Blogs are the most democratic and unregulated of all the news and news media. Because bloggers do not have the same standards for accuracy as professional journalists, their reports should be read with caution.

21 The Role of a Free Press in a Democracy
News media has 3 roles in a democracy: Serve as a “watchdog” over the government. Setting public opinion. Supporting the free exchange of ideas, information, and opinions. Politicians try to control the agenda-setting power (i.e.: ability to make issues a public priority and get them on the public agenda) of the media to focus on issues they find important. News media serves as a marketplace of ideas and opinions. As such, the airwaves today are filled with opinion journalism (i.e.: opinion journalism: the expression of personal views and opinions in the news media, with little or no attempt to make that coverage objective).

22 Influencing the Media: Staging, Spinning, and Leaking
Public officials at all levels of government work hard to both attract and shape media coverage The most common way of doing this is by staging events (i.e.: a political event organized to attract and shape media coverage) and inviting the press (E.g.: Presidential press conference).

23 Influencing the Media: Staging, Spinning, and Leaking
Politicians also try to influence the press by granting interviews to reporters. If it is an on-the-record conversation, the reporter can quote the public official by name. If it is an off-the-record conversation, the reporter can use the information but may not reveal the source.

24 Influencing the Media: Staging, Spinning, and Leaking
When speaking on-the-record, politicians usually put their spin (i.e.: the deliberate shading of information about a person or an event in an attempt to influence how it is reported in the media) on issues. The goal is to convince the media and the public that their point of view is correct. They also try to include colorful sound bites a short quote for the news media that conveys information or opinions in a catchy or memorable way. Public officials sometimes use off-the-record conversations to float trial balloons, or a proposal that is shared with the press to test public reaction to it Off-the-record conversations are also used to leak information to the press A leak is an unofficial release of confidential information to the media.

25 Are the Media Biased? Many Americans believe that the media have a liberal or conservative bias. Most journalists strive to be fair and unbiased in their reporting. In its code of ethics, the Society of Professional Journalists calls for its members to be “honest, fair and courageous”. What critics see as media bias (i.e.: real or imagined prejudice that is thought to affect what stories journalists cover and how they report those stories) may just reflect how a news organization works. Most news media outlets are a business, meaning that they need to attract readers.

26 Are the Media Biased? Journalists look at many factors in choosing what stories to cover: Impact- How will it make people feel? Conflict- Does the story involve a crime, a fight, a scandal, a disaster? Novelty- Is the story about a “hot topic” or a breaking news event? Familiarity- Is it interesting? Do people know those involved? These factors influence what you see and hear as news.

27 9.5- The Influence of the Media in Political Campaigns

28 Image Making and the Role of Media Consultants
With the invention of television, came the job of media consultants. Media consultants advise candidates on how to present a positive image to voters. Media consultants also help candidates plan their media campaigns. Candidates may spend up to 80% of their campaign funds on paid ads. Media consultants use opinion polls to make sure that money is spent effectively. They also work with focus groups (i.e.: a small group of people who are brought together to share their opinions on a topic of concern) to test the appeal of a campaigns message.

29 Types of Campaign Ads: Issue Versus Image
Positive issue ads promote a candidate’s position on topics calculated to appeal to voters. Negative issue ads criticize opponents.


31 Attracting Media Coverage: Photo Ops and Streamlined Conventions
Photo-op is a fully staged event designed to produce memorable photographs and video images. E.g.: kissing a baby or a family portrait.

32 Media Coverage of Elections: Horse Races and Soap Operas
Most reporting falls into 2 distinct categories: Horse race coverage, treats an election as a sporting event. i.e.: political campaign reporting that focuses on who is winning and why. Soap opera stories, focuses on the ups and downs of candidates and their campaigns. These stories thrive on gossip, scandals, and personality. Some journalist get caught up in “gotcha journalism” that aims to catch the candidates making a mistake or looking foolish.

33 Why Campaigns “Go Negative”
This means switching from positive, upbeat campaigns to negative campaigning (i.e.: trying to win an advantage in a campaign by emphasizing negative aspects of an opponent or policy), also known as mudslinging. In the end, campaigns go negative because it works. It may discourage voters from voting for the candidates opponent. It may also encourage larger voter turnout on election day.

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