Public Opinion

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Public Opinion

  1. 1. Public Opinion Politics By Numbers
  2. 2. Public Opinion <ul><li>What is the role of public opinion in our American democracy? </li></ul><ul><li>Should the role be different? </li></ul>
  3. 3. History of Opinion Polling <ul><li>At the founding </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The language of the Declaration of Independence requires that public opinion be taken into account. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Our government functions expressly with &quot;the consent of the governed.” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>What did the founders rely on to gauge public opinion? </li></ul>
  4. 4. History of Opinion Polling <ul><li>Early straw polls </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Newspapers often augmented their election coverage by interviewing voters as they left the polling place. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>First one in the U.S. recorded in 1824. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>By the turn of the century they were common in both local and national newspapers and magazines </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. History of Opinion Polling <ul><li>Abraham Lincoln </li></ul><ul><ul><li>&quot;What I want to get done is what the people desire to have done, and the question for me is how to find that out exactly.” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Divided public opinion of him as president </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Understood need for a mandate, especially to take nation into war </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. History of Opinion Polling <ul><li>Early 20th Century </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Rise of the social sciences in education and government brought sociology and statistics into the public consciousness </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Market research firms helped manufacturers make and market products of mass appeal </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Political applications are quickly recognized </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. History of Opinion Polling <ul><li>George Gallup </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Founded the American Institute of Public Opinion in 1936. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Correctly predicted results of 1936 election from only 5,000 respondents </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Literary Digest had over 2 million respondents and predicted incorrectly </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. History of Opinion Polling <ul><li>Franklin Roosevelt </li></ul><ul><ul><li>First President to use a private polling service to advise him on both election strategy and public policy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>FDR's tenure in office was marked by great policy change and his own great popularity </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. History of Opinion Polling <ul><li>Harry Truman </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Polls showed that a Dewey presidency was &quot;inevitable&quot;, and that the New York governor would win the 1948 election </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Truman won the electoral vote by a 303-189 majority over Dewey </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Polling had stopped 3 weeks earlier, models for undecideds were wrong </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. History of Opinion Polling <ul><li>Dwight Eisenhower </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Employed Harris polling to gauge how to make himself appealing to the voting public </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Developed the famous “We like Ike” campaign slogan </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. History of Opinion Polling <ul><li>Bill Clinton </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Heavily reliant on polling data, especially during impeachment scandal </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Even polled on family pets and vacation plans </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Used polling to craft policy </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. History of Opinion Polling <ul><li>George W. Bush </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Tried to appear to dismiss polling, but did a lot of it nonetheless </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Used polling to spin existing administration policies </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. Kinds of Polls <ul><li>National polls </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Attempt to gauge public opinion using a national representative sample </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Often conducted by media working with professional pollsters </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Campaign polls </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Benchmark polls establish baseline of candidate’s popularity at the start of campaigning </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tracking polls follow changes in attitudes of voters during campaign </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Exit polls sample people who have just voted </li></ul></ul>
  14. 14. Kinds of Polls <ul><li>Pseudo polls </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Non scientific, results are not reliable </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Self-selection polls </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Listener call-in, Internet polls </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Push polls </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Generally present false hypothetical information about a candidate to influence voter’s opinion negatively </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Can also be used to present positive information about a candidate to influence voters </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Do not have a small or scientifically selected sample size—mass persuasion attempt </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Voter Identification polling </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. Be Poll Savvy <ul><li>Who did the poll? </li></ul><ul><li>Who paid for the poll and why was it done? </li></ul><ul><li>How many people were interviewed? </li></ul><ul><li>How were those people chosen? </li></ul><ul><li>When was the poll done? </li></ul><ul><li>How were the interviews conducted? </li></ul><ul><li>What is the sampling error for the poll? </li></ul><ul><li>Who's on first? </li></ul><ul><li>What questions were asked? </li></ul><ul><li>What other kinds of factors can skew results? </li></ul>
  16. 16. Be Poll Savvy <ul><li>“ Ask yourself the question, when you look at the poll results: is this an issue where people have made up their minds? You may not know, but if you see inconsistencies, if the wording of the question changes the response. If you haven't made up your mind... people that are being polled are like you and they haven't made up their minds. You can't rely on the poll results.” —Daniel Yankelovich </li></ul>
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