pol203-Feb. 2nd 2012.docx

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14 Apr 2012
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POL203Y1-Lecture Feb.2, 2012
U.S Government and Politics- Public Opinion
Citizens and Interest Groups
1st stageThe Partisan Era Parties are the primary conduit for participation
Almost all political activity is channelled in political parties
Everything is organized in partisan terms
The Progressive Transition Key goal: a direct link between government and the people
Attack is made on old partisan systemin terms of vision of citizen participationcould be
more direct, was more evident at the state level not national level
Two Tiered Politics? New forms of direct participation: lobbying, litigation, direct public
action
New kinds of organizations enter into politics-courts become more open to political claims- or
claims based upon rights
Other types of direct public actioncivil rights movement example of successful citizen
action- had an effect on party system as well
Notion that parties are becoming increasingly less significant, having difficulty mobilizing public
opinion, thus the notion of two tiered politics
Two tiered system- lobbying or litigating by interest groups and a public that seems more
disengaged from political life-public not as connected to parties as they have been in the past
The Future of Citizenship
Declining Social Capital? For reasons that were possibly irreversible
At one time political activity was rooted in non political group membershipbecomes a
disengaged public and a highly engaged active elite
Tea party is an example of how social capital still matterthey are a kind of proof of the
significance of social capital
The emergence of citizen activism is not a sign that the top tier interest groups have
disappearnew kind of citizen activism
... Or new opportunities for engagement?
The trouble with “active political participation”...
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Public Opinion In America
1. The USA in comparative context
2. Divisions: class, race, gender, religion
3. Public Opinion and Public Policy
Best way to see public minds is through public polling
Public policy should reflect public opinionwe can easily think of many examples where this is
not true—politicians don’t always do what the public wantex. Impeachment of Clinton by
Republicanspublic was not demanding he be removed
President bush supporting immigration reform even though the public and his party were
against it at the time
Obama determined to push through health care although it could have cost him politically
As a whole makers of the constitution wanted to minimize the roll of public opinion
Electoral college and staggering of elections barrier between public opinion and public policy
Progressives were more optimistic about public opinion- thought it was becoming more
educated- becoming easier to discern what the public wants- they hope for the decline of
intermediary institutions that stood between public opinion and public policy- utopian goal not
something actually implemented- but implemented more at state level then national level
Was it a good idea to believe there could be a direct link between public opinion and public
policy?
public opinion creates an illusion of certainty- its easy to misinterpret the information that
polling provides
ultimately leads to questions of legitimacy in political institutions
America the Unusual?
The US tends to adopt a great degree of economic individuality
They are suspicious of the states intervention in the economy
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