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Pearson Education, Inc., Longman © 2006 Chapter 4 Public Opinion American Government: Policy & Politics, Eighth Edition TANNAHILL
Pearson Education, Inc., Longman © 2006 In This Chapter We Will Cover: Political socialization Measuring public opinion Political knowledge Support for democratic principles Political trust and political legitimacy Political efficacy Political philosophy
Pearson Education, Inc., Longman © 2006 Political Socialization Political socialization is the process whereby individuals acquire political knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs.
Pearson Education, Inc., Longman © 2006 Political Socialization Agents of Socialization –Family Politically active parents have politically active kids. Initial party affiliation of the child is the same as his or her parents 60 percent of the time. Parental influence diminishes over time. –School Civics instruction enhances knowledge about government, encourages interest in current affairs, and teaches patriotism.
Pearson Education, Inc., Longman © 2006 Political Socialization –Religious institutions Personal involvement in religious organizations is associated with increased political participation.
Pearson Education, Inc., Longman © 2006 Political Socialization –Peer groups The impact of a peer group on an individual’s political views depends on the significance of the group to the individual.
Pearson Education, Inc., Longman © 2006 Political Socialization –Media Political participation is closely associated with media usage. Media determines the relative importance Americans attach to various problems.
Pearson Education, Inc., Longman © 2006 Measuring Public Opinion Sampling –Researchers are able to study a large population (a universe) by examining a subset (sample) of that population. –A properly chosen sample will reflect the universe within a given margin of error. Example: The margin of error for a sample of 1,065 persons out of a universe of 500,000 or more is a plus or minus of 3 percentage points, 95 percent of the time.
Pearson Education, Inc., Longman © 2006 Margins of Error for a Universe Greater than 500,000
Pearson Education, Inc., Longman © 2006 Measuring Public Opinion Question Wording –A good sample is worthless if the questions are not valid. Consider the following three examples:
Pearson Education, Inc., Longman © 2006 Measuring Public Opinion If you are now covered by Medicare, or if you soon will be, would you be willing to pay higher premiums, deductibles, or income tax surcharges for: (a) catastrophic hospital coverage; (b) catastrophic nursing home coverage; (c) both; (d) neither?
Pearson Education, Inc., Longman © 2006 Measuring Public Opinion –This question is too confusing. It is not clear what is being asked.
Pearson Education, Inc., Longman © 2006 Measuring Public Opinion Do you believe abortion should be legal? (a) yes; (b) no; (c) no opinion.
Pearson Education, Inc., Longman © 2006 Measuring Public Opinion –The question is oversimplified. Many people believe that abortion should be legal under certain circumstances but illegal under others. The question with its oversimplified answer alternatives would force these people to misstate their views.
Pearson Education, Inc., Longman © 2006 Measuring Public Opinion –Do you favor or oppose a real Patient’s Bill of Rights that would protect Americans from abuses by HMOs?
Pearson Education, Inc., Longman © 2006 Measuring Public Opinion This question is biased. A biased question is one that produces results tilted to one side or another. By asking respondents if they favor a “real” Patient’s Bill of Rights that would protect Americans from abuses by HMOs, the authors of the question are loading it in favor of support for Patient’s Bill of Rights. After all, who is in favor of HMO abuse?
Pearson Education, Inc., Longman © 2006 Measuring Public Opinion Attitudes, non-attitudes, and phantom opinions –Sometimes respondents make up responses to questions about which they have little or no knowledge because they do not want to appear uninformed.
Pearson Education, Inc., Longman © 2006 Measuring Public Opinion Interviewer-respondent interaction –The race or gender of an interviewer can affect survey results when sensitive issues are involved.
Pearson Education, Inc., Longman © 2006 Measuring Public Opinion Timing –Surveys are only snapshots of public opinion. Using poll results to predict the future can be risky.
Pearson Education, Inc., Longman © 2006 Political Knowledge Although some Americans are quite knowledgeable about public affairs, a majority of the nation’s adults cannot accurately name their own representative in Congress, identify the Bill of Rights, or name the three branches of government.
Pearson Education, Inc., Longman © 2006 Political Knowledge –Men know more about politics than do women. –Wealthy people are more knowledgeable than are poor persons. –Republicans know more than Democrats. –Well-educated people are better informed than people with less formal schooling.
Pearson Education, Inc., Longman © 2006 Support for Democratic Principles Political scientists identify three factors accounting for the preservation of political freedom in the United States despite the ambivalence and occasional hostility of many Americans to civil liberties. 1)The Constitution provides the legal foundation for individual rights. 2)Because Americans do not agree on which groups should be suppressed, they are unable to unite behind undemocratic public policies. 3)Political elites (those with major influence on policymaking) support democratic principles in specific situations, not just in the abstract.
Pearson Education, Inc., Longman © 2006 Political Trust And Political Legitimacy Political trust is essential to political legitimacy in a democracy. –Political legitimacy is the popular acceptance of a government and its officials as rightful authorities in the exercise of power.
Pearson Education, Inc., Longman © 2006 Political Efficacy Political Efficacy is the extent to which individuals believe they can influence the policymaking process. –Internal political efficacy is an assessment by an individual of his or her personal ability to influence the policymaking process. –External political efficacy is an assessment of an individual of the responsiveness of government to his or her concerns.
Pearson Education, Inc., Longman © 2006 Political Philosophy Liberalism is the political philosophy that favors the use of government power to foster the development of the individual and promote the welfare of society. Conservatism is the political philosophy that government power undermines the development of the individual and diminishes society as a whole.
Pearson Education, Inc., Longman © 2006 Opinion Differences Among Groups Social Class –Lower-income persons are more liberal than middle- and upper- income people on social welfare issues but less supportive of civil rights for African Americans than are middle-income whites.
Pearson Education, Inc., Longman © 2006 Opinion Differences Among Groups Race and Ethnicity –African Americans and Hispanics hold views that are generally more liberal than non-Hispanic white Americans.
Pearson Education, Inc., Longman © 2006 Opinion Differences Among Groups Religion –In contemporary American politics, the religious right is more influential than the religious left.
Pearson Education, Inc., Longman © 2006 Opinion Differences Among Groups Generation –Younger Americans are more tolerant of ethnic, racial, and social diversity than older adults.
Pearson Education, Inc., Longman © 2006 Opinion Differences Among Groups Region –People from the east or west coasts are more liberal than are people from the South, Midwest, or Rocky Mountain region.
Pearson Education, Inc., Longman © 2006 Opinion Differences Among Groups Gender –Since 1980, however, survey researchers have discovered a gender gap. Women are now more likely than men are to vote Democratic and support minority rights.
Pearson Education, Inc., Longman © 2006 Concluding Review Questions How does the socialization process compare with learning in the classroom?
Pearson Education, Inc., Longman © 2006 Concluding Review Questions What role do the following play in the socialization process: family, school, religious institutions, peer groups, the media, and events? What is the theory behind survey research?
Pearson Education, Inc., Longman © 2006 Concluding Review Questions What steps must researchers take to ensure a representative sample? Why is it important that question wording be unbiased?
Pearson Education, Inc., Longman © 2006 Concluding Review Questions What is the relationship between political trust and political legitimacy? Are Americans liberal, conservative, or moderate?
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