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American Political Culture and Public Opinion

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1 American Political Culture and Public Opinion
American political ideology (10-20% of Exam)

2 We are unique!! Alexis de Tocqueville saw many reasons why democracy took hold in the US “the fertile soil in which the roots (of democracy) could grow” No feudal aristocracy-low taxes-few legal restraints Westward expansion-vast territory provided opportunities Nation of small independent farmers Our moral and intellectual characteristics

3 What is political culture?
It is defined as a universally accepted way of thinking about how politics and government ought to be carried out

4 Our view of what’s important
Liberty (our rights) Equality (equal vote and opportunity) Democracy (government accountability) Civic duty (being involved) Individual responsibility (for your own actions and well-being)

5 How do we know??? Before polls, people looked at books, speeches and political choices Polls and personality tests show we share these beliefs and other nations don’t!!

6 What of economics? Americans support free enterprise but also place limits on that freedom Believe in equality of opportunity but not equality of results And we share a commitment to economic individualism

7 More… Americans lag behind Europeans in voter turnout but not in other forms of participation Americans have more confidence in their government We acknowledge our flaws but still are “very proud” of our national identity and would be more willing “to fight” for our country in the event of war (See table 4.2 on pg 83)

8 Econ, religion and politics
Americans favor economic freedom and value hard work We are more “religious” than Europeans Churches are a major source of volunteerism Religious beliefs have played an important role in US politics and everyone uses the pulpit to promote politics Candidates and religion go hand in hand here

9 Background? How about home!
So where do these beliefs come from? #1 place – the family instills the ways we think about the world and politics!!!!! Our kids have greater freedom and there is equality among family members This leads to a belief in rights and acceptance of diverse views in decision making We are not so class conscious – we consider ourselves middle class and success is there for those who work hard!!

10 The war over “values”… We clash over values
The war over cultural values reflects our deep differences in beliefs about private and public morality – standards that ought to govern individual behavior and social arrangements There are two “camps” on this issue…

11 Did you say “camps”? Yes I did…
Orthodox believes that morality is as, or more, important than self expression and morality derives from the fixed rules of God Progressive believes that personal freedom is as, or more, important than traditional rules and beliefs are based on circumstances of modern life and personal preferences Also associated with “liberal” and “conservative” viewpoints…

12 They lied!! The mistrust of government has increased dramatically since the 1950s That mistrust is directed at officials within the government, not the governmental system!!! Watergate Vietnam Clinton Why such a change? Perhaps our naïve view of government in the 50s, fewer ways to express patriotism in the 60s and 70s??

13 Political efficacy… Internal efficacy – the ability to understand and take part in politics (do I or can I make a difference) External efficacy – the willingness of the state to respond to the citizenry (does anyone care about me) External has dropped sharply since the 1960 while internal efficacy has remained constant – In other words, we believe in our governmental system but don’t think they believe in us…

14 Political tolerance (or lack of)
Americans are steadily becoming more tolerant in general Still, many believe we are too tolerant of harmful behaviors and they tend to defend common moral standards over protecting individual rights Democracy is willing to defend a persons right to speak, even if what they say offends you to the core… a tough dilemma, huh??

15 Unpopular groups? Unpopular groups survive for several reasons
Most don’t act on their beliefs Usually no consensus on whom to persecute Office holders and activists are more tolerant than the general public Courts are sufficiently insulated from public opinion to enforce constitutional protections In other words, they’re there and they’re not going away, sorry…

16 Public Opinion Public opinion is simply defined:
How do people feel about particular things, food, clothing, sports, weather, stuff like that Most people don’t spend much time thinking about politics This leads to a high level of public ignorance Still people are really good at picking out clues to figure out what candidates reflect their interests or values with limited information!!

17 Our opinions come from???? Family – recently youngsters tending to be independent – no clear ideology Religion – very complicated but most pronounced regarding social issues Gender – men more Republican, women Democrats and big differences on gun control, size of gov’t, social programs and gay rights School – college students used to be more liberal, not now, less involved and tend to read less

18 What tears us apart? Social classes are less important in US than Europe but still exist Non-economic issues now define liberal and conservative more than money did Race and ethnicity – differences between blacks and whites narrowing but still concerns of discrimination Hispanics tend to be Democrats but not as much as African-Americans Asians tend to be more Republican than whites

19 We are complex!! No easy differentiation between liberals and conservatives Pure liberals – Pure conservatives – libertarians – populists All deal with economic and social issues Pure liberals – liberal on economic and social Pure conservatives – conservative on both Libertarians – conservative economics, liberal social Populists – liberal economic, conservative social

20 Polls and what to look for
Scientific polls are worthy of covering, un-scientific are entertaining but useless (Gallup) Who did the poll? Who paid for it and why? How many people were questions? How were they chosen? What area, nation, state or region – or what group, teachers, lawyers, Democrats?

21 More on polls… Are results based on answers? When was the poll done?
How were the questions asked – phone, mail or in person and were the questions “weighted” to force a desired response? In what order were the questions asked? Was the poll part of a fund-raiser?

22 Terms to know Universal sample – means the whole population the poll aims to measure Random sample – anyone is a part of it Quota sample – looking for a specific audience Sampling error – reflects the difference in results of two polls Exit poll – done on election day as people leave the polls You must ask people to get a +/- 3% sampling error or the poll is invalid

23 Who REALLY participates?
Different factors can tell us who votes Education – MOST IMPORTANT, more education=more voting Religious involvement Race and Ethnicity – Whites higher than minorities (might be economic based) Age – is the lowest, and 45 and up is the highest

24 Who REALLY participates?
Gender – men traditionally voted more, now it is more equal Two-party competition – more competitive elections have higher turnout Cross-cutting cleavages – individuals influenced by many factors, it is important when testing for this that variables are controlled

25 Which of the following best describes the concept of political efficacy?
a. It is the belief that the average citizen can make little or no difference in an election. b. It is the belief that an intelligent voting decision cannot be made without information. c. It is the belief that the media must provide unbiased information for citizens to be able to make well-informed choices. d. It is the belief that one can make a difference in politics by expressing an opinion and acting politically. e. It is the belief that politicians must keep the electorate well-informed if they are to govern efficiently.

26 According to the information in the table above, which of the following statements is correct?
a. Students who identify themselves as independents are the most likely to have parents who are republicans. b. Of the three groups of parents, the democrats are the most likely to pass on their party identification to their children. c. Student who identify with the democratic party are more likely to have parents who are republicans than parents who are independents. d. The children of republicans are less likely to identify as independents than are the children of democrats. e. Parents who are independents are the least likely to have children who share their party identification.

27 During the past twenty-five years, all of the following changes in public opinion and political behavior have occurred in the US EXCEPT: a. a decline in party competition in the South b. a decline in the level of trust in government c. a drop in voter turnout d. an increase in ticket-splitting e. an erosion of party loyalties, especially among young people

28 American political culture is characterized by strong popular support for all of the following EXCEPT: a. the rule of law b. limited government c. individual liberty d. equality of opportunity e. economic equality

29 The most common form of political activity undertaken by US citizens is
a. lobbying to influence decisions by public officials b. campaigning for candidates for offices c. contributing money to a political party d. voting in local elections e. voting in presidential elections

30 Expanding Suffrage Lifting of property restrictions (1830) – “universal manhood suffrage” gave voting rights to all white males Suffrage for African-Americans ( ) th Amendment – Voting Rights to all Brown v. Board – separate but equal is illegal, killed Jim Crow laws th Amendment – banned poll tax 1965 – Voting Rights Act of 1965 – federal law prohibited (no literacy tests, fair elections etc.)

31 Expanding Suffrage Women’s Suffrage (1920) – 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote 18-21 year-olds (1971) – 26th Amendment, sparked by Vietnam

32 Voter Turnout Registered Voter turnout Eligible Voter turnout
Voter Registration – blamed as one of the causes of low turnout “Motor-Voter” (1993) – National Voter Registration Act – allowed people to register to vote while they get license

33 Other reasons for low turnout
Difficulty of Absentee Voting Number of Offices to Elect too high Weekday, non-holiday voting Weak political parties – less “get-out-the-vote campaigns

34 Public Opinion The distribution of individual attitudes about a particular issue, candidate, political institution, etc.

35 Early Efforts to Influence and Measure Public Opinion
Public opinion polling began in the 1930s But, as early as 1824, people were trying to predict the outcome of political races using polls Literary Digest used straw polls (unofficial ballots) which have since proven problematic The American Voter was published in 1960 and continues to influence the way we think of mass attitudes and behaviors

36 George Gallup Developed “Gallup Polls” Started in 1932 1st “pollster”
Since 1936, agency has picked one general election result incorrect 1948 Harry S. Truman was behind in the Presidential race and Gallup stopped polling 2 weeks before the race, picking Thomas Dewey to win and the winner was…

37 Sampling Representative – must mirror population you want answer about
Random – give everyone an equal possibility of being sampled Wording – questions can’t be leading Straw poll – poor polling technique

38 Political Socialization
Factors that influence a person’s opinion People in different social “groups” tend to share certain opinions: group identification

39 Family #1 influence of political attitude
Very strong correlation for Political Party support

40 Gender Examples More men support military
More women consider sexual harassment a serious problem Since ’60s, women vote Dem more than men, and vice versa Not as significant of an indicator as marriage (married vs. unmarried)

41 Religion Example Protestants are more conservative on economic matters than Catholics or Jews Jews tend to be liberal on economic and social issues than Catholics or Protestants Catholics tend to be more liberal on economic issues than they are on social issues (Catholics becoming more conservative)

42 Education Example Higher Education = more conservative
College education = liberal views Conflicting results, not always a correlation

43 Social Class “Blue collar” (Laborer) typically Democrat
“White collar” (Businessmen) typically Republican Relationship is becoming less clear

44 Race and Ethnicity Examples African Americans – 90% Democrats
Hispanic Americans – tend to affiliate with Democrats Asian Americans – less liberal than Hispanic Americans or African Americans, but still consistently vote Democrat White, more divided, fluctuates by election

45 Geographic Region Example East and West Coasts – more liberal
Mid-West – more conservative Urban - liberal South – s - Democrat “Solid South” but today they are primarily social conservatives White Southerner always less liberal

46 Political Ideology Coherent set of values and beliefs about public policy Changes over time for all people Liberal and conservative mean different things at different time periods

47 What Americans Value: Political Ideologies
Who Are the Liberals and Conservatives? Views change over time Perfect example…BOTH democrats and republicans claim that Thomas Jefferson is the founder of their political party WHY? Currently about 37% conservative, 23% liberal, 40% moderate

48 How ideological are Americans?
1950 study – “The American Voter” 4 basic types of voter Ideologues – 12% of people connect their opinions to party lines Group Benefits Voter – 42% of people connect their opinion to their “group”. (labor union, interest group, class, race)

49 How ideological are Americans?
3. Nature of the times voter – 24% of the people linked good or bad times to the party in control and vote the opposite (usually based on economics). 4. No Issue Content – 22% of the people could give no reason

50 How Americans Participate in Politics
Political Participation: All the activities used by citizens to influence the selection of political leaders or the policies they pursue. Conventional Participation Voting in elections Working in campaigns / running for office Contacting elected officials

51 How Americans Participate in Politics
Protest as Participation Protest: A form of political participation designed to achieve policy changes through dramatic and unconventional tactics. Civil disobedience: A form of political participation that reflects a conscious decision to break a law believed to be immoral and to suffer the consequences.

52 Which of the following best describes the relationship between socio-economic status and participation in politics? a. The lower one’s socioeconomic status, the more likely it is that one will run for public office. b. The higher one’s socioeconomic status, the greater the probability of active involvement in the political process. c. Adults who are unemployed have a greater personal interest in policy and tend to participate more actively in politics than do employed adults. d. People in the lower middle class are the most likely to participate in politics. e. There is no relationship between socioeconomic status and political participation.

53 Between 1964 and 1984, which of the following would have been most likely to vote for the Democratic presidential candidate? a. A Cuban-American business executive from Miami b. A Black teacher from Los Angeles c. A White doctor from Atlanta d. A Polish-American truck driver from Phoenix e. A Methodist farmer from Iowa

54 Registered voters directly elect which of the following?
I. The President and Vice President II. Supreme Court Justices III. Members of the Senate IV. Members of the House of Representatives a. I only b. IV only c. I and II only d. III and IV only e. II, III and IV only

55 The main intent of “motor voter” laws is to
a. increase voter registration b. increase voter turnout by providing transportation to polls for people without cars c. increase the rate at which incumbents are reelected to office d. prevent states from using literacy requirements for voting e. allow sixteen year olds to vote if they have a valid driver’s license

56 Political socialization is the process by which
a. the use of private property is regulated by the government b. governments communicate with each other c. public attitudes toward government are measured and reported d. political values are passed to the next generation e. children are trained for successful occupations

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