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Lecture 2&3 .doc

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Political Science
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Charles Hoffman

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Lecture 2: January 18/12 Where opinions come from - Almost half of all Torontonians want services to remain constant o Another third want to increase spending on services - Opinions spring from attitudes we have - An attitude is an inclination to respond consistently to an object in ones environment - Attitudes are unobserved mental states - Cognitive component o Information about an object o Beliefs about the object - Affective component o Feelings of fondness o Levels of intensity - Attitudes motivate behaviour o Who you talk to, who you sleep with, etc. o Whether you vote, demonstrate, answer an opinion poll, write a letter to the editor o Opinions are overt expressions of attitudes Not always a spectrum of views - “valence” issues are issues in which one side of the debate is illegitimate: o Child abuse o Drunk driving - There are still differences of opinion, though, in how these problems should be solved - Salience: issues also vary in terms of their salience o What problems should the government deal with now o What issues the public is preoccupied with now - These issues may or may not be mutually exclusive (governments can work on more than one issue – although they can’t have too many priorities) - Salience: is what are the biggest issues right now – what we should be working on at the moment - Values/core beliefs/principles are drawn from policy opinions - Opinions come from: formative influences (parents, teacher, and mentor), media, culture, and religion, group attachments, as well as from core-beliefs, etc. - contradiction and conflict may arise within: religion and culture, parent and group attachments, belief in individualism or personal responsibility and belied in equality, Belief Systems Consistent and structured: - only a few people have internally consistent opinions - most people have loosely structured sets of attitudes - its common/normal to feel ambivalent or conflicted Implications for textbook - textbook discusses values and especially “Canadian values” o sure, there are values, but those values are not always – or not consistently applied - Values can also be hard to measure. Many of those values can be hard to disagree with... - forcing people to make trade-offs is better, but may have limited applicability Socialization Opinion foundations: how we resolve these opinion conflicts - childhood learning influences political outlook o “primary tendency” – what is learned first is lodged most firmly in mind - Early learning structures later learning o Later learning reinforces early influences Family: most important influence: - Political loyalties o Reasons come later - Political activism - Also basic orientations that have political significance: o Egalitarianism o Individualism o Personal freedom Schools: - Reflect dominant values of community - Teach fables of history - Expressions of patriotism (if any) and cultural holidays Women and politics: Women’s relative lack of interest and attention to politics is trace-able to formative stages Reinforcements: - Peers: belong to like-minded groups - Leaders: follow leaders you trust; that you feel a bong of commonality with - Media: tune-in to shows that do not violate view of reality - Canadian media: Canada has some independent media o Few Canadian families subscribe to both the Toronto Sun and Globe and Mail o Government owned CBC is a major media outlet o Massive change in media universe - Sources of news: o Many Canadians get their news from American sources o Besides CBC, there are several national media outlets on TV  Most aligned with, or owned, by a small number of Canadian companies o Many small outlets targeting specific regional or ethno-linguistic groups - Only reinforcing? o As a result of our selective listening and group membership, effects can be small and/or diffuse  But they may exert an effect o Media can prime certain information, making that information more relevant and important o Blidook: media helps define “situation” Media influences: Media and socialization - Few overtly partisan messages in media, but there are more subtle political messages commonly found in media o Evolution of role of women o Examples: good to vote/participate, but how often to characters on a show join a serious protest, can gay couples be fit parents? Politics is a man’s world, etc. Rebels and bureaucrats - Bureaucrats and political leaders often depicted as rule-bound, corrupt, and/or preoccupied with self-preservation, thereby inhibiting heroes who get things done by breaking the rules Order in the Canadian universe - Left and right are common terms to describe differing perspectives or approaches to both economic and social issues o But most do not “identify” with a party and may not even feel close to a party  Leftists are split between NDP, Bloc and Liberals Secondary dimension: morality matters - Many issues are often seen as moral issues - Social and moral issues produce sharpest divisions and biggest controversies Common terms Conservatives and liberals are only terms commonly used by public and mass commentators... Religious divides - People are divided by religion - Women active in religious life are more likely to be involved politically Lecture 3: January 25/12 Descriptive statistics: - We use them to quickly and concisely compare groups o Compare regions or US vs Canada by comparing mean, median, and/or mode - Also need to look at how groups differ within the group and the range (or dispersion) of views within the group o Measures like standard deviation, interquartile range, kurtosis and skew all give us an idea of how accurately mean or median accurately describes most of the people in that groups o High standard deviation or interquartile range suggests that there is a wide range of opinions with many holding views far from the mean or median - Even if we ascertain what many of most of Canadians believe, that does not mean that such ideas are definitely Canadian if other many people in at least one other country also share those ideas - What is truly unique can only be determined through comparative evaluation - Social scientists and even historians often look elsewhere to recognize similarities and identify real differences - Canada and the US are the two most similar countries in the world – becoming culturally more similar Religion and religiosity - A big part of the story is religion and religiosity - More Catholics as % of the population - Americans are nation and church goers o Canada in general – less so o Active church members: US 38%, Canada: 28% o Inactive church members: UFS 28%, Canada 22.5% Beliefs and actions - Values and opinions may differ – but are quite similar to many other nations in the world - But values and opinions are only part of the story: priorities matter o Politics is often about priorities: what issues to tackle now, what is the biggest problem facing country Theories: revolution - What makes America different was the unique features of the American Revolutio
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