• Definition: • Public opinion is a complex collection of the opinions of many different people – it is the sum of all of their views.
• Manypublics exist in the United States:How is each one made up? • Thoseindividuals who hold the same view on some particular public issue.• Noticethis important point: NOT manyissues capture the attention of all; or nearlyall Americans.
• Public opinion includes only those views that relate to public affairs.• DEFINE public affairs: • Includespolitics, public issues and the making of public policy.
• Public opinion is so complex that it cannot readily be defined.• Public opinion can be expressed in a variety of ways: • Newspaper, email, vote, billboard, a film, a protest demonstration.
• Each of us learns our political opinions and we do so in a lifelong “classroom” and from many different “teachers”.• Public opinion is formed out of a very complex process and the factors involved in it are almost infinite.
• Most parents (and family members) do not think of themselves as agents of political socialization, however they are very important in this process.• How can children learn politics from their family? • Hear what their parents say, watch same TV news and shows, etc.
• The start of formal schooling marks the initial break in the influence of the family.• Schools teach children the values of the American political system.• What is an important part of the educational system? • Help students understand the importance of good citizenship.
• DEFINE: Means of communication that reaches a widely dispersed audience.• Television is the best example of mass media.
• Peer groups are made up of the people with whom one regularly associates. (friends, classmates, neighbors, co-workers)• How can peer groups influence opinions? • People trust the views of their friends. • Peer groups share many of the same socializing experiences.
• DEFINE: any person who has an unusually strong influence on the views of others.• Many hold public office, some write for newspapers or magazines, or broadcast their views on radio or TV.• Opinion leaders also come from occupations or religious organizations.
• Can have a major impact on the views of large numbers of people and also on the content and direction of public policy.• Example = Great Depression • Persuaded a large majority of Americans to support a much larger role for government in the nation’s economic and social life.
• Inthe late 1960s and early 1970s, Vietnam and Watergate produced a dramatic decline in the American people’s trust in their government.
• Someeffort must be made to measurepublic opinion; the following provide somedegree of means of measurement:
MEASURE PROBLEM WITH• When a party or • Voters choose a candidate claims a candidate for any of mandate, this refers to the instructions or several reasons – not commands a constituency just on stances for gives to its elected public issues/questions. officials.
MEASURE PROBLEM WITH• Private organizations • How many people do whose members share they actually represent? certain views and work to • How strongly do they shape the making and the hold their views? content of public policy.
MEASURE PROBLEM WITH• Themedia are • Reflect the views of a frequently described vocal minority. as “mirrors” as well as “molders” of opinion.
MEASURE PROBLEM WITH• Members of Congress • Can public officials receive bags of mail, find the “voice” of the 100s of phone calls and emails everyday. people in all of those contacts.• They also conduct public meetings.
• Public opinion is best measured by public opinion polls: • Devicesthat attempt to collect information by asking people questions.
• Asking the same question of a large number of people to read the public’s mind - these are still fairly common today, however, not to reliable.• What is the problem with the straw vote? • Not a good cross-section of the total population.
• Serious efforts to take the public’s pulse on a scientific basis date from the mid-1930s.• Most of the more than 1000 scientific polls deal with commercial work, but 200 deal with politics• What are among the best known? • Gallup - Rasmussen - Harris
• Scientific poll-taking is an extremely complex process that can best be described in (5) basic steps: 1. Define the Universe 2. Constructing a Sample 3. Preparing Valid Questions 4. Interviewing 5. Analyze and Report Findings
• Defining the Universe: • The‘Universe’ is a term that means the whole population that the poll aims to measure.
• Constructing a Sample: • In most cases, it is not possible to interview a complete universe, so the pollster must select a sample – representative slice of total universe. • Most professional pollsters draw a random sample • How does this work? • Random people who live in a certain number of randomly selected places are selected.
• 1500 is the number of people usually interviewed for a national poll. • What is the margin of error in these polls? • +/- 3
• Preparing Valid Questions: • The way in which questions are worded is very important because the wording can affect the reliability of any poll. • How do reliable pollsters attempt to make valid questions? 1. Do not use loaded, emotionally charged words 2. Avoid questions that tend to shape the answers that are given.
Interviewing:• Most polls are taken face to face, but there is an increase in the amount of telephone and mail polls.• What is the important element in whatever method is used? • Same method or technique is used with all respondents.
• Analyze and Report Findings: • Scientific polling organizations collect huge amounts of data and use technology to tabulate, interpret, and eventually publish the findings.
• Most responsible pollsters are aware that their polls are far from perfect and acknowledge that fact.• Pollsters have a difficult time measuring the following:Intensity – strength or feeling with which opinion is heldStability – the relative permanence/stableness of an opinionRelevance – how important a particular opinion is to theperson who holds it.
• DEFINE medium: • Means of communication• Thefour major mass media (ranked in terms of impact) are: Television, newspapers, radio and magazines.
• Themass media are NOT part of the government: • However - they are an important force in politics because people acquire most of the information about the government from the various forms of media.
• Replaced newspapers as the principal source of American political information in the early 1960s.• The major networks have dominated TV from its infancy: CBS, ABC, and NBC.
• Themajor network’s audience share has been declining in recent years and the challenge has come form (3) sources: 1. Independent broadcast groups = Fox News 2. Cable broadcasts = CNN 3. Public Broadcasting Service
• Rank second as the public’s primary source of information about government and politics.• What advantage does a newspaper have over TV? • Stories are covered in greater depth and with various points of view.
• Mostpapers are localones, covering localstories, buttechnology ischanging this with on-line versions of majornewspapers available.
• By the 1930s, the radio was a major entertainment medium and millions of people planned their day around their favorite programs.• President Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first major public figure to use radio effectively. (Fireside chats during the Depression).
• Many people felt that thearrival of TV would bring toan end the radio as a majormedium, but why has radiosurvived? • Radiois very “convenient” and “available”
• The Progressive Reform era in the early 1900s spawned several journals of opinion, including articles by many leading muckrakers.• 3 news magazines Time, Newsweek, and US News and World Report have a combined circulation of 10 million copies a week.
• Clearly the media play a significant role in American politics, but just how significant that role is, is the subject of long, still unsettled debate.• The media’s influence can be seen most visibly in (2) areas:
• The media play a large role in shaping the public agenda: • DEFINE: societal problems that the nation’s public leaders and the general public agree need government attention• The media determine to a vary large extent what public issues the people will think and talk about.• They have power to focus peoples attention on a particular issue.
• TV has made candidates for office less dependent on political parties because with TV, they can appeal directly to the people.• Candidates regularly try to manipulate media coverage to their advantage (most people learn about a candidate from TV).
• What are sound bites ? • snappy 30 – 45 seconds reports• How do good campaign managers use them? • Show candidates doing something exciting in a short period of time (News does not want long)
•Anumber of built in factorswork to limit the media’simpact on the behavior ofthe American voting public: 1. Few people follow national or local political events closely, so few people understand what the media has to say about public affairs
2. Most people who pay attention are selective about the media the watch or read• What does this mean? • They watch what they agree with.
3. Most TV programs have little or nothing to do with public affairs, more people are interested in being entertained than being informed.4. Radio and TV mostly ‘skim’ the news – What does this mean? • Not really in depth coverage – just short stories.
• Definition: private organization that tries to persuade public officials to respond to the shared attitudes of its members.• Also known as Special Interest or Pressure Groups
• Organized efforts to protect group interests are a fundamental part of the democratic process.• Whatever the call themselves, the interests seek to influence the making and the content of public policy.• Where do these groups operate? • Wherever policies are made or can be influenced (basically at every level of government)
• Political parties and Interest groups differ from each other in 3 striking respects: 1. In the making of nominations 2. In their primary focus 3. In the scope of their interests
• The parties nominate candidates for public office.• What would happen if an interest group nominated a candidate? • They would become a political party.• Interests groups try to affect the outcomes of primaries and other nominating contests by openly supporting a candidate.
• Political parties want to win elections and control the government.• What are interest groups concerned with? • Influencing or controlling the policies of government• Parties focus on candidates Interest Groups on issues.
• Political parties are concerned with the whole range of public affairs, with everything of concern to voters.• Interest groups always concentrate only on those issues that most directly affect the interests of their members.
• What about access to interest groups? • Theyare private organizations and are not accountable to the public.
• Do interest groups pose a threat to the well being of the political system…• Or are they a valuable part of the American political system? James Madison warned against the dangers of “factions”, but why did he feel that none would become a dominating influence? • They would counter-balance each other Alex de Tocqueville was impressed by the vast number of organizations he found in the United States.
VALUABLE FUNCTION CRITICISMS• Help to stimulate public • Interest groups have affairs – those issues influence far out of and events that concern proportion with their the people at large. size or Interest groups raise importance/contribution awareness of the public good.• of public policy affairs.
VALUABLE FUNCTION CRITICISMS• Represent their • Hard to tell just who or members on the basis how many people a of shared attitudes group really represents. rather than on the basis of geography.
VALUABLE FUNCTION CRITICISMS• Provide useful, • Do not represent the specialized and detailed views of all the people information on the whom they claim to government. speak for.
VALUABLE FUNCTION CRITICISMS• Interestgroups are • Some groups use tactics vehicles for political that could undermine participation. the political system: • Bribery • Revenge
VALUABLE FUNCTION• They add another element to the checks- and-balances feature of the political process.• They compete with one another in the political arena.
• The United States has often been called a nation of joiners and no one really knows how many associations exist in the US today.• Interests groups are founded on a variety of ideas: economic (the most), geographic, political, ideological or groups that promote its own welfare.
• Most interest groupsare formed on thebasis of economicinterests or themanner in whichpeople make theirliving.
• Whatis the oldest organized interest group still at work today? • US Brewers Association• Most segments of the business community also have their own interest groups called trade associations.• How come these business groups are not always together on issues? • They often disagree and fight over what the government gives out.
•A labor union is an organization of workers who share the same type of job or who work in the same industry.• They press the government for policies that will benefit its members.• What has happened to the labor recently? • Membership has been declining in recent years.
• Organized labor generally speaks with one voice on such matters as Social Security programs, minimum wages, and unemployment.• When does labor oppose labor? • White Collar vs Blue Collar • Section vs Section • Product vs Transportation
• Farmer’sinfluence on the government’s agricultural policies is and has been enormous.
• Defined as those occupations that require extensive and specialized training.• How do they compare to the business, labor and farm groups? • Not nearly as large, well organized, well financed or effective
• (3) groups are, however, an exception to the rule: • American Medical Association (AMA) – physicians • American Bar Association (ABA) - lawyers • National Education Association (NEA) - teachers• Each of these organizations has a very real impact on public policies, and at every level of government.
• Groups that formed for reasons other than economic concerns also have a great deal of political clout.• A large number of groups exist to promote a cause or an idea; here are some of the major ones:
American Civil Liberties Union• Fights in court for civil and political rightsThe Sierra Club• Focus on conservation and environmentNational Rifle Association• Fights for the rights of gun owners.
• A number of interest groups seek to promote the welfare of a certain segment of the population. (Their name usually indicates whom!) • VFW (war veterans) • NAACP (African Americans • AARP (senior citizens)
• Religious organizations also try to influence public policy in several important areas.
• Definition: • Interest group that seeks to institute certain public policies of benefit to most or all people. • Among the best known and most active are Common Cause and several organizations that make up Ralph Nader’s Public Citizen Inc.
• Interest groups regularly reach out to the public to accomplish one or all of (3) major goals: 1. Supply the public with information an organization thinks the people should have. 2. To build a positive image for the group. 3. To promote a particular public policy
• Interest groups try to create the public attitudes they want by using propaganda.• DEFINE propaganda: • Technique of persuading aimed at influencing individual or group behavior.
• To be successful, propaganda must be presented in simple, interesting, and credible terms.• How do talented propagandists attack a policy they oppose? • Attack with name calling or presenting only one side of the issue.
• Using symbols (flags, Uncle Sam) and testimonials from TV stars or athletes are often used.• The bandwagon approach (follow the crowd) or the plain folks approach (pretend to be with common people) are favorite techniques.• How is propaganda spread? • Newspapers, radio, television, Internet, movies, etc.
• Leaders of interest groups know that political parties play a central role in selecting those people who make public- policy decisions.• How do interest groups attempt to influence the behavior of political parties? • Be active in party affairs or take leadership positions in a party.
• An interest group’s election tactics often have to involve some very finely tuned decisions.• If they support a candidate and that candidate loses, will there be backlash?• How can interest groups help a candidate? • Donate money through Political Action Committee’s
• Single-Interest Groups have grown rapidly in the past 20 years.• These are PACs that communicate one issue (abortion, gun control, etc)• What is the single-interest group’s focus? • Organized or concentrate on ONE ISSUE
• Lobbying is usually defined as those activities by which group pressures are brought to bear on legislators and the legislative process.• Realistically, lobbying includes all of the methods by which group pressures are brought to bear on all aspects of the public policy-making process.• Nearly all of the important organized interests have lobbyists in Washington DC.
• What is the major task for a lobbyist? • Work for those matters that benefit their clients + against those that may harm them.• A lobbyist’s effectiveness depends in large part on his/her knowledge of the political system – many are former legislatures or lawyers.
• Most lobbyists know how to bring “grass- roots” pressure to bear.• What are Grassroots? • Term meaning “of or from the people”
• Several interests groups publish ratings of members of Congress. • These rankings are based on votes cast on measures crucial to their interests. • Use the mass media to publicize these ratings.• Why do lobbyists want to be as accurate and honest as possible? • Do not want to damage or destroy their credibility and effectiveness.
• Lobbying abusesdo occurnow and then, false ormisleading testimony, briberyand other unethical pressuresdo happen from time to time.