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Lecture 20

GVPT 170 Lecture 20: GVPT170 Lecture 20

Government and Politics
Course Code
GVPT 170
Patrick Wohlfarth

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American Government: Public Opinion II
How to Get a (Near) Random Sample
o Random-digit dialing randomly generating telephone numbers until registered
numbers are generated
Cost-effective and mostly reliable.
o Door-to-door polling taking a random sample of local addresses and showing up
at people’s doors
Time-consuming and expensive, but most reliable.
o Polls by academic organizations tend to be of the highest quality.
American National Election Study (NES)
Key Components and Concepts of Public Opinion Surveys
o Random sample selecting a subset of individuals in a population such that
every member of the population has an equal chance of being selected
o Sampling error the uncertainty introduced into a sample due to the fact that the
sample does not include all members of the population
o Question wording & selection the choice of words and phrases in a question
can affect the answers people provide
Example: People tend to respond more negatively to the word “welfare”
than to other phrases such as “Social Security” or “Medicare.”
o Response rate the percentage of people in a sample that actually participate in
the survey
o Measurement of intensity answers may be scaled such that respondents can
quantify how strongly they agree with or identify with what the question is asking
of them
Measurement of Public Opinion
o Where do people form survey responses?
Attitudes are sometimes elaborate and consistent, but more often loosely
structured and often rudimentary.
o Top-of-the-Head Responses
Citizens use many considerations to form a response.
How the issue is framed matters a lot.
Wording: Is the respondent primed by the question or by larger
Political campaigns are often contests over these frames.
o Some considerations (almost) always shape public opinion.
Group attachments (race, gender, class, etc.)
Ex: Women tend to be more liberal
Ex: Upper class people tend to be more conservative
find more resources at
find more resources at
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