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Public Opinion Understand Political Attitudes and Behavior.

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Presentation on theme: "Public Opinion Understand Political Attitudes and Behavior."— Presentation transcript:

1 Public Opinion Understand Political Attitudes and Behavior

2 Man, Politics & Government Man by his nature is a political/social animal Hobbes argues that we formed civil society to avoid the fear and conflict of the state of nature

3 Freedom versus Order Abraham Maslow – Hierarchy of Needs Biological/Physiological Safety Community/Belonging Esteem Self-Actualization – Democracy arises after all other needs met – Disruption of basic needs prevents democratization Disruption of basic needs prevents democratization

4 Freedom versus Order Erich Fromm – Escape from Freedom (1941) Man fears the responsibility that comes with freedom Accepts the certainty and “protection” that is provided by totalitarian leaders who promise security, order and prosperity May explain support for Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Taliban, or other totalitarian regimes or cults

5 Freedom versus Order B.F. Skinner – Free will and self- determination are an illusion – Behavior is controlled by one’s environment – Control the environment and you control behavior – Society shapes and determines behavior through a system of rewards and punishment – Walden Two is Skinner’s view of a utopian society

6 Freedom versus Order Vaclav Havel – Czech poet/playwright Largo Desolato The Power of the Powerless – Citizens comply with totalitarian regimes because they fear punishment – Yet, they pretended to be free – 1980s and 1990s saw revolutions in Poland and Czechoslovakia Velvet Revolution in 1989 resulted in Havel’s election as President of the new Czech Republic

7 Freedom versus Order Natan Sharansky – Soviet dissident along with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn challenged totalitarian rule in the Soviet Union – Case for Democracy (2004) Free states and fear states Fear states have – True believers – Doublethinkers – Dissidents Dissidents need support to challenge government US foreign policy should promote the expansion of democracy This is component of the Bush Doctrine – Arguably makes the case for intervening in Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein

8 American Struggle: Freedom versus Order Freedom and Equality – Our two most cherished values No class system to reinforce inequality Minimal socialist movement Education reinforces values Order – Demand for order increases in times of stress (siege mentality) Patriot Act School Dress Codes Corporal Punishment

9 Application of Values Freedom – Restrictions on Free Speech Communists in the 1950s Anti-war speech in the 1960s Nazi March in Skokie Opposition to the War in Iraq – Dixie Chicks Equality – Equality under the law Racial Profiling Death Penalty – Political Equality Disenfranchisement of voters Power of money in politics – Economic Equality 40 million Americans live in poverty 45 million Americans lack health insurance and millions of Americans are underinsured

10 Political Participation and Public Opinion Social Scientists attempt to understand why we behave the way we do Research/Experiments on political behavior – Adorno and the F-Scale – Milgram and Obedience – Zimbardo and the Stanford Prison Guard Study

11 Understanding Attitudes and Behavior Attitudes may be viewed as learned tendencies to evaluate some object, person or issue Attitudes are the product of beliefs and values – Beliefs are what you believe to true or false – Values are what you believe to be good or bad For example, If I asked your opinion of Barack Obama – Your brain calculates an attitude based on your belief and value system Studies suggest response is a cognitive response based on emotional framing

12 Selective Perception You screen information based on its compatibility with your belief and value system – A loyal Democrat will believe positive news stories concerning Barack Obama as well as negative stories about John McCain or Sarah Palin – Similarly, a loyal Republican will believe reports critical of Barack Obama and dismiss stories critical of John McCain or Sarah Palin In fact, individuals will go so far as to watch only news programs that reinforce their belief and value system – Democrats watch MSNBC (Matthews, Olberman and Maddow) – Republicans watch FOX News

13 Political Ideology Political Ideology is a cohesive set of values and beliefs that form a general philosophy about the role of government In the U.S., we talk in terms of left and right or liberal and conservative – Liberals support a strong national government to protect the poor, the elderly, children, the environment, consumers and workers – Conservatives support a strong national defense, a national morality, deregulation, a small national government regarding the economy and support a shift in power from the national government to state governments

14 Public Opinion Public Opinion is the aggregate of attitudes about issues, events or personalities

15 Political Socialization Political Socialization is the induction of individuals into the political culture through the learning of the underlying beliefs and values that the political system is based on Individuals are “taught” these values by agents of socialization that include – Family – Social Groups – Education – Prevailing Political Conditions – Government – Media

16 Family Provides the initial and strongest orientation towards government What we learn is influenced by differences in family background Party ID is formed at home – Mom and Dad both Republican the child probably Republican – Mom and Dad both Democrat the child probably Democrat – Mom a Democrat and Dad a Republican the child will probably be a Democrat or Independent Corporal punishment at home is believed to promote authoritarian personality – Obedience – Respect for Order – Respect for Authority

17 Social Groups – Involuntary Race Gender – Voluntary Peer groups – School – Work Political parties Interest groups – Greenpeace – NOW – NAACP – LULAC – NRA – Christian Coalition Group identity provides shared experiences or “training” with regard to values and beliefs – Hitler mobilized the Hitler Youth Model German Paramilitary Training

18 Social Groups Race – Significant attitudinal differences between whites and blacks (See Gallup Black/White Survey) – African Americans Liberal Values – More support for government programs that promote equality – More likely to recognize discrimination – Less likely to support the death penalty – Less likely to support military action (i.e., Vietnam, Iraq) Conservative Values – Less support for Gay Rights – Less support for Abortion – More support for school prayer Voting Trends – Voted Republican from 1865 to 1960s – Voted Democrat (90-98%) since 1964 – Republicans are attempting to use social issues (i.e., gay rights) to drive a wedge between African Americans and Democrats

19 Social Groups Age – Older Americans generally more conservative on social issues such as abortion and gay rights plus they more likely to vote and engage in politics – Younger Americans (under the age of 30) are generally more liberal on social issues, but are less likely to vote or engage in political action This trend may be changing with the nomination of Barack Obama Young voters were very active in the primaries and caucuses

20 Social Groups Religion – Protestants (50%) Largest segment of the population Large number of denominations Evangelicals are very conservative and vote Republican – Southern Baptists – Christian Coalition – Moral Majority – Catholics (25%) Have identified with the Democrat party since the mid to late 1800s – Gangs of New York – Irish Democrats Republicans are trying to use social issues (abortion, gay rights) to drive a wedge or create a cleavage issue that will bring Catholics to the Republicans – Jews Traditionally aligned with the Democrats on social issues

21 Social Groups Gender – Gender Gap refers to the differences between the political behavior between men and women Men are slightly more likely to vote Republican (55% to 45%) based on “force” issues – Guns – War – Crime Women are slightly more likely to vote Democrat (55% to 45%) based on compassion issues – Social issues – Protection of children, the poor and the environment – However, gender is not a very good predictor as other variables must be considered Income Education Religion Community

22 Social Groups Income – Low Income voters generally support Democratic Party Candidates – Middle Income voters are mixed and other variables must be considered to predict voting behavior – Upper Income voters generally support Republican Party Candidates – Republicans used wedge issues to pull Southern White voters from Democratic Party beginning in 1980 (Reagan) turning the South Red

23 Social Groups Region – Northeast is Blue – South is Red Blue from Red since Reagan – Lower Midwest is Red – Upper Midwest is Blue – West is Red – Far West is Blue Community – Urban is Blue – Suburban is Red – Rural is Red

24 Education (K-12) Promotes common set of civic values K-12 supports authoritarian values – Discipline – Obedience – Conformity

25 Education (College) College promotes democratic values – Free Speech – Forum for Ideas – Tolerance – Promotes political participation Knowledge of the System Knowledge about Issues Knowledge about Candidates

26 Political Conditions and History Events during maturation shape view of government – Great Depression – World War II – Vietnam War – 9/11

27 Government Governments promote support for the system – Nationalism is the belief that a people who occupy the same territory share something that makes them superior to others Nazi Germany was nationalism run amuck – Nationalism promoted History and Myths Movies Sporting Events – Olympics – World Cup – Ryder Cup

28 Measuring Public Opinion George Gallup believe polling could produce truer democracy Polls now used by politicians, media, interest groups to demonstrate support for issues or candidates

29 Measuring Public Opinion Designing a Survey – Identify population – Take random sample Sample Size (N) should be between 1000 and 1500 Should be representative of general population Types of Surveys – Straw Polls have respondents call to voice opinion – Stratified Sample uses census data for selected geographic areas to establish representative sample Used for National Polls and Exit Polls In 2004, undersampling of Republican voters resulted in the media making an incorrect prediction that Kerry was ahead on election day

30 Measuring Public Opinion Methods – In Person Costly Interviewer influence – Mail Low response rate Unable to clarify – Telephone Most Common Number of Problems – Homes without phones – Answering machines or Caller ID – Refusal to answer – Multiple household members

31 Measuring Public Opinion Validity and Reliability – Does it measure what we think it is measuring – Can it be reproduced over time Problems – Poor question format – Faulty ordering of questions – Vocabulary bias – Ambiguity – Limited response choices

32 Measuring Public Opinion Margin of Error – Product of the sample size – With an N of 1000 to 1500 the margin of error will be +/- 3 – For example, poll shows Obama ahead 55% to 45% with a margin of error of 3 The support for Obama is really between 58 and 52% The support for McCain is really between 48 and 42%

33 Measuring Public Opinion Halo Effect – Respondents claim to have voted when in reality they did not because it is the socially expected answer – Respondents give the social expected answer regarding racial, gender, or policy issues Leads to overestimation of support for women’s issues amongst men Leads to overestimation of support for Obama amongst whites Leads to overestimation of support for regulation of pornography Leads to underestimation of racism

34 Measuring Public Opinion Salient Issues – Issues that the respondent really care about Abortion Bailout Health Care – Responses are more stable on salient issues than those of little interest to the respondent

35 Measuring Public Opinion Push Poll is a survey designed to push a respondent to a given position rather than measure attitudes Provides information that forces respondent to reconsider position – In 2000, survey done in South Carolina suggested that John McCain had a black child In fact, the child was adopted from an orphanage run my Mother Theresa The statement was designed to incite racial attitudes – In 2008, statements that Obama is Muslim or that he does not wear a flag pin Designed to incite post 9/11 attitudes amongst voters Push polls are considered unethical

36 Measuring Public Opinion Bandwagon Effect is the tendency for voters to support the winning candidate Underdog Effect is the tendency for voters to support the challenger – George W Bush in 2004 – Hillary Clinton in NH 2008


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