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Lecture 13

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Department
Political Science
Course
POL214Y5
Professor
Erin Tolley
Semester
Winter

Description
Lecture 13: Mass Media and Public Opinion Political socialization • “Process by which individuals acquire their basic political values and attitudes as  well as their political information and opinions” (D&C, p. 266)  • Can be direct (e.g., participating in politics) or indirect (e.g., through family,  school, media)  Do Canadians know enough about politics? • Dominion Institute poll of 18­24 year olds o Only 46% could name Canada’s first prime minister o Only 26% knew the year of Confederation •  Only Ontario, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Quebec require high school students to  take a Canadian history course to graduate  Public opinion polling • The systematic collection of opinions held by members of the public on a given  subject  • Typically determined through a survey or questionnaire  • Methodology and rigour can vary o Mode (e.g., telephone versus internet) o Sample (e.g., random or not) o Question wording, sequencing o Sensitive questions and response bias  Negative effects of polls • Potential of polls to lead public opinion rather than just capture it o Bandwagon and underdog effects o Depress voter turnout o Detract from discussion of real issues  Horse­race coverage Why do polls get it wrong? o Pollsters are trying to predict election outcomes not just measure public opinion  o A random sample of people is polled and asked how they will vote o A forecast is developed o But not everyone who was polled actually votes o So the poll doesn’t predict how voters would vote o Only forecasts based on respondents’ intentions  o To be accurate, the poll needs to capture likely voters  o Last­minute vote switching  o Problems with representative samples o Under­representation of young people and low­income o Over­representation of seniors  Role of the media o Media include: o Newspapers o Broadcasters (radio & TV) o Internet o Media play a key role in communicating political information to Canadians o Polling results o Political party positions o Public policy issues and government legislation o Scandals, mistakes and gaffes Linking the media and politics o Media are Canadians’ primary source of information about politics o Viewed as authoritative and (mostly) objective o Politicians use the media as a means of communicating with Canadians o Political advertising o Soundbites o Media image o Question period o Politicians also monitor the media  o Media “leaks” or reporting on scandal can influence how Canadians evaluate  political parties, leaders or issues  Critical perspectives o Who controls the media? o Most media in Canada are owned by four large  o Conglomerates: Rogers, Bell, Shaw and Quebecor o From what media do people access information? o About 21% of Americans aged 18­29 say they regularly get campaign  news from The Daily Show and SNL  o Young people are most unlikely to watch mainstream network news o Who is left behind? o 97% of high­income Canadians use the Internet o Only 43% of
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