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November 4, 2013 - Public Opinion.docx

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Western University
Political Science
Political Science 2244E
Peter Scapillato

Public Opinion November 4, 2013 Hawaii The Tea Party - First “discovered” by Captain - Mobilizes American who oppose James Cook. increases in government - Islands united in 1810 – spending. monarchy adopted a flag. 8 major - Conservative group promoting islands. reduction in government and - Tsar Alexander became government spending on policy. protectorat until 1873. The - Advocate policies that reduce the French then became involved. national debt (17 trillion and still - United States moved in after the growing). French conflict, leading to the - Favour free trade, lower taxes, reciprocity treaty – promoted deregulation of the economy. Big sugar cane exchange agreements. vs. Small. Hawaii gave them Pearl Harbor in - Members: 15 000 chapters in the exchange; Hawaii was US. 18% of Americans, majority acknowledged as a sovereign white males over 45; Republican. nation. - No figurehead or national leader. - Many native Hawaiians opposed the US army having a permanent presence in their country. A provisional government (a militia group) took over. The Queen resigned, and investigation ensued. - Report by President Cleveland: US had no wrong-doing in the overthrow of the monarchy. - 1897: McKinley attempted to sign a treaty. Japan sent warships to Hawaii to oppose the annexation of Hawaii. - 1898: Officially the territory of Hawaii. - 1900: Territorial government was established. - Pearl Harbor: 1941. - Under Marshal Law until the end of the war. - 50 state in 1959. Defined o The aggregation of the views of individuals in society. The collective thought; common thought. Political leaders have to listen if it is to be a legitimate democracy. o Is the public smart enough? o Persistent concern. o Should public opinion inform government decisions? Two Views of the Public o Ignorant Masses (Walter Lippmann) o Average citizens  Were informed about celebrity gossip, were not familiar with policy and government activity, but have an opinion on everything. (ACA = Affordable Care Act) o Founding Fathers  One direct vote for public.  Tyranny of the masses. o Lippmann’s Trio People cannot give an informed opinion to government officials. However, it is not possible for people (even a single person) to be informed all the time. This is limited ability of individuals is referred to rational ignorance. 1. Interest and Ignorance o Self-interest o Cursory knowledge 2. Expertise and Intricacy o Political amateurs o Complex issues o Rational ignorance 3. Irrelevant and Fleeting o The “given moment” – public opinion should only extend as far as current issues. o The American Voter o “Most people don’t have real opinions at all.” o Non-attitudes o Different wording, different answer o Ideological inconsistency. o Rational Public o The public is rational o A sensible guide to governance o 3 pillars  Collective Opinion: Public can sift through good and bad, shared values and beliefs, ignorance is lost. The public CAN decide what they want – the contradictory individuals disappear amongst the larger group.  Information Shortcuts: “Cues” (we draw about a person, situation, etc. from our everyday experiences, and hold onto them, and form a story out of them); from personal experience. These cues are informative enough to bring together a reasonable opinion on something.  Inattentive Officials: Public opinion useful only when heard; not an ignorant public; corrupt elites (only listening to interest groups). Interest groups have more access to info than the public does. Therefore it is an issue of access. The public DOES have rational views, and the government should pay closer attention. Can these two be reconciled? o James Surowiecki’s The Wisdom of the Crowds o Individual v. group o E.g. Jury, ox’s weight. o Avoids group think. o A collection of random individuals avoids “group think” – this is a problem in public policy, because a group with the same background has a shared bias/value. Should public opinion inform government decisions?  Take into account? Yes. Base decisions solely on public opinion? No.  Issue-dependent. Which people/professionals are more informed about the issue – what are the different interests that people can have in the issue (e.g. Marijuana legalization: some want it for
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