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COM 413. Public Opinion, Propaganda and Mass Media University catalog course description: Techniques of sociological and political persuasion, mass media.

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Presentation on theme: "COM 413. Public Opinion, Propaganda and Mass Media University catalog course description: Techniques of sociological and political persuasion, mass media."— Presentation transcript:

1 COM 413. Public Opinion, Propaganda and Mass Media University catalog course description: Techniques of sociological and political persuasion, mass media and public opinion in the United States; developments in international propaganda. Integrates disciplines of sociology and political science in application to operation of communication and communications media in society.

2 Course Objectives 1. Identify, describe, and explain major concepts in the studies of public opinion, propaganda, persuasion, and mass media. 2. Recognize, understand and analyze the processes underlying public opinion and propaganda, exemplifying these with reference to significant historical and current events.

3 Course Objectives 3. Identify, understand, apply and critique a variety of qualitative and quantitative techniques for measuring public opinion. 4. Understand interdisciplinary character of the course subject. 5. Outline contributions to our understanding of propaganda and public opinion of research from the fields of communication, mass media, social psychology, political science, and sociology.

4 Course Objectives 6. Understand, exemplify and critique the interrelationships between propaganda, public opinion, media institutions, the market, political influence and power. 7. Understand and discuss ethical conventions that proscribe the misuses of propaganda and manipulation of public opinion.

5 Structure of the Course The first part of the course focuses on public opinion, its formation and impact on public policy In the second part we turn to propaganda attempts at modifying/changing public opinion. The last part will be spent mostly on analysis of propaganda and the role of the media.

6 Required Text: Jowett, Garth S. and O’Donell, Victoria Propaganda and Persuasion. 5 th Ed

7 Reading All reading assignments must be completed before class meeting… It is important that students keep up with required reading (according to course schedule), even when the reading may not be specifically covered in corresponding class. You are recommended to read ahead

8 Midterm and Final Multiple choice / true-false questions and / or short-answer questions A review for the examinations will be given in class and placed on the web

9 “Thought letter” Two “thought letters” in which you will explore your responses to questions or problems covered in your texts and lectures. The topics will be assigned during lectures/discussions in response to interesting questions, problems, and students’ suggestions.

10 Propaganda Example An example of current propaganda and your analysis of the example.

11 Final Group Project Final Group Project is a written report and class presentation in which you will need to analyze in depth a specific instance of media propaganda in relation to persuasion and the formation or manipulation of public opinion.


13 Why Public Opinion? Inputs → Government → Public Policy Inputs: Public Opinion Political culture/Political attitudes in aggregate through political parties and interest groups

14 Why propaganda? The main goal of propaganda is to aid policy, to make the cost of policy less. Goebbels: We do not talk to say something, but to obtain a certain effect.

15 Democracy, Public Opinion, and Government Policy: the benefits Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832): The greatest difficulty of the legislator is being “in conciliating the public opinion or correcting it when erroneous…” But, even if “conciliating” is difficult, public opinion is a useful check on the authority of rulers. Bentham demanded that all official acts be publicized, so that an enlightened public opinion could pass judgment on them

16 Democracy, Public Opinion, and Government Policy: the perils Tocqueville was concerned that a government of the masses would become a “tyranny of the majority.” But, whether public opinion is regarded as a constructive or a baneful force in a democracy, there are few politicians who are prepared to suggest in public that government should ignore it.

17 Three Possible Relationships Public opinion is merely a constraint on public policy; Public opinion exerts strong pressure to direct or redirect government policy; public opinion is ignored by government. Sometimes public opinion is a driving force of change. But there are also cases when government has clearly not done what the public wanted as expressed in public opinion surveys

18 Salience An issue that is salient (widely publicized, known about, important) is more likely to stimulate public opinion, and that opinion is more likely to be influential. Examples: Economic crisis 2008 / Iraq / Vietnam: as these issues grew more salient, the stronger and more influential was public opinion.

19 Constitutional Rights An issue that is seen to clash with fundamental constitutional rights is likely to stimulate influential public opinion.

20 Why Do We Expect Public Opinion to be Influential? Publicly elected officials have strong motivation to anticipate public opinion. People tend to vote for politicians that seem to be like them, and therefore people and politicians would tend to share opinions. Politicians would feel morally obliged to respect the public’s wishes. Processes of democratic pluralism would lead us to expect a linkage, over time, between the interests of groups and government policy.

21 Research Monroe (1979) found that 64% of the time, government policies have been consonant with majority public opinion; Page and Shapiro (1983) found congruence 66% of the time. Miller and Stokes (1963) found modest co-relations between public opinion in given congressional districts and roll call voting by district representatives in Congress, especially on salient issues. Erikson (1976) showed (moderate correlation) opinion- policy linkages in the case of particular issues at state levels.

22 Which comes first: public opinion or policy? Political parties tend to enact policies adopted by their party platforms in campaigns and are consistent with majority opinion. This occurs 64-74% of the time. Politicians who monitor public opinion with a view to manipulating it, sometimes end up adopting policies in line with public opinion (a “recoil effect”) Other studies find a reciprocal relationship between public opinion and policy-making, with governments leading as well as responding to public opinion.

23 Is Responsiveness to Public Opinion a Good Thing? Non-responsiveness to public opinion need not be undemocratic where, for example, the government is looking to the best longer-term solution, or where it considers that the public needs more time to assess the situation.

24 Political / propaganda campaigns A planned, coordinated, sustained, multi-faceted series of messages designed to achieve a pragmatic goal by influencing target audiences.

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