Fourth Week, Reading assignment, Molloy, PPA, Chapter 8
M-16-Public Opinion, Polls and Their Significance in a Democracy
Characteristics of public opinion
All governments, demo or not demo, are (to some extent) based
on PUBLIC OPINION.
Democracy and Public opinion government rests on the consent
of the governed and public opinion is enthroned
Dictatorship and Public Opinion even dictatorship has public
STATE MONOPOLY on communications and SYSTEM OF CENSORSHIP
is used to stifle ideas which may be dangerous to the regime.
As Americans became more educated, they became more vocal in
expressing their views, as well as the likelihood to vote rose.
When the public literacy grew the demand for newspapers and
magazines grew which in return provided more information
about to government and public policy issues.
De Tocqueville associated public opinion with the dangers of a
“mediocre” unstable and potential “tyranny of the majority”
WOODROW WILSON AND LORD BRYCE believed that public
opinion was important in democracy Woodrow believed that it
could help with international leaders he then formed the CPI
which was the COMMITTEE OF PUBLIC INFORMATION.
CREEL COMMITTEE (named after the chairman George Creel)
the panel’s job was to solidify public opinion behind the war
Used all types of propaganda – pamphlets, posters,
CPI also drew up a voluntary censorship code under which editors
would agree to putting stories that may aid the enemy.
WALTER LIPPMANS PUBLIC OPINION (1922) during the 1920s and
30s, nearly everyone got into the act, American universities even
started teaching courses on public opinion This led to the questions being asked –
1. WHO SHOULD TEACH THESE COURSES?
2. Who claims this course? Political science? Sociology?
Psychology? Journalism? They all claimed it.
3. Not only could they not come up with who owned the course
but they could not come up with an actual definition.
The government process by DAVID TRUMAN – defined public opinion as
“the opinion of the aggregate of individuals making up the public under
discussion. It does not include all the opinions held by such a set of
individuals, but only those relevant to the issue or situation that
defines them as public”
BERNARD HENNESSEY – defined public opinion as “the complex of beliefs
expressed by a significant number of persons on an issue of public
Many other scholars who define the public simply as, “what the public
thinks about a particular issue or set of issues at any given moment.”
Do polls influence public opinion or does public opinion drive the
CHARACTERISTICS OF PUBLIC OPINION
DIRECTION – “for or against”, right or left, (liberals or
conservatives) If you change it you must have a consensus.
(MCCAIN—THIS WAS EXTREMELY NEGATIVE)
INTENSITY – we may have very strong feelings about an issue –
opinion has HIGH intensity some people are adamantly for or
against. While others mildly support or oppose them LOW
intensity. The problem with this is that it may not adequately
measure the intensity of the opinion. (Divided opinion,
STABILITY – opinions can be STABLE or UNSTABLE, they may be
unlikely to change or they may change over night. A person can
either be rooted in their values or not. PROFESSOR V.O KEY –
suggested the term “VICOSITY” – opinions may change only slowly
in response to new ideas and events in the political world, or they
may change rapidly and unpredictably. KEY EQUATED HIGH
VISCOSITY WITH STABILITY AND LOW VICOSITY WITH UNSTABILITY.
Consensus – great majority of the poll respondents
express the same view Divisive – when the public holds widely divergent
LATENCY— implies that sometimes public opinion is slumbering
and exists only as a potential problem to public officials. Politic
decision makers must anticipate public reaction DAVID TRUMAN
spoke of the theory of “potential interest groups” – which is any
set shared attitudes by interest groups, can spark a particular
reaction to political decisions.
SALIENCE (RELEVANCE) – we say that public opinion has a high
degree of salience which means that it deals with issues that
concern us. AN EVEN OR POLICY IS RELEVANT TO US. In short
age, race, religion, ethnicity, and all the things that make us who
we are, determine whether an issue matters to us.
Presidents, public opinion and problems of war, cold war, international crises
Family: Had been having a cultural war with family the past few
years. Traditional family was one where parents taught their
children about the culture.
School, peers: Curriculum what is taught and who teaches what.
Churches, Religious Values
Media – Primary groups – sociologist Charles H. Cooley, consists of
small groups of persons with whom we have frequent face-to-face
contact with in our daily lives. Secondary Groups – Large and
impersonal. They have cleanly defined, but, limited social
THE BOTTOM LINE IS THAT MANY PEOPLE TODAY ARE AWARE AND
CONCERNED ABOUT THE VALUES THAT FILM AND TV INDUSTRIES
TRANSMIT, PARTICULARLY TO CHILDREN.
Pearl Harbor changed everything. Last time congress declared war.
Measuring Public Opinion
• Public opinion by nature is plural. (there are many different publics and so
many different opinions that people can have)
• The problem on how to measure peoples opinion is not new – if you want to
win an election you need to know what is going on in peoples minds.
• These steps were created – 1. construct questions to be asked (special attention has to focused
on avoiding questions that could create an issue) (bad phrasing)
2. Select the sample. (it is impossible to interview every American,
if you think you can, good luck bud) (RANDOM SAMPLE—gives each
potential voter or adult the same opportunity. Or being selected
for an interview. STRATIFIED SAMPLE—based on a census data that
provides the number of area residents and their locations, EXIT
POLLS—pollsters interview voters after they cast their ballots
most voters do not want to be questioned. TRACKING POLLS –
since 1992 presidential election—they enable candidates to
monitor short term political developments and to assess the
impact of campaign strategy on race)
*first polling organization American institute of public opinion (Gallup
Leaders and Public Opinion Followers –
• The question of who has power and how it should be exercised still divides
elite theorists and pluralist
• Elite Theorist Wright Mills, have argued that the power elite dominate
society. Such as its communication systems, and that the masses are simply
• Pluralist reject that. They say many sets of leaders in society and their
interest groups have access public officials. They have a real opportunity to
influence public policy)
• Those who believe in a republican government are inclined to view
leaders differently from those that subscribe to “participatory government”
• Public opinion polls show that the political preferences of Americans often
are not translated to law..
EXAMPLES INCLUDE. Term limits and the ERA (Equal Rights
Who are the media?
Mass Media means the communication, broadly defined, “the media”
traditionally includes newspapers, magazines, books (print media) and TV,
movies, and radio (electronic media)
*new media—online media.
Private ownership profits are necessary to success and to make a profit,
“customers” must be satisfied. 1. AMERICAN PRINT MEDIA
first newspapers – colonial era – when colonists soon realized the
importance of free press
• Anti-federalists demanded an amendment guaranteeing freedom of speech.
• National Gazette – JEFFERSON
• Federalist and Republican newspapers were fiercely partisan.
• Frank Luther Mott the dark age of the partisan press – extended from
Washington thorough Andrew Jackson.
• PENNY PRESS – helped weaken party influence on newspaper editorial
content, as the party organizations grew stronger they no longer felt the
need to rely on the press, they established the GPO (Government Printing
Office) – which was responsible for all government printing, presidential
and congressional subsides to partisan newspapers was a matter of history.
• AFTER THE CIVIL WAR – THE PRESS BECAME MORE INDEPENDENT Horace
Greely’s “New York Tribune” – this was a “new breed of newspapers” – still
• Attraction – sensational and scandalous news.
• GREAT CHANGES IN JOURNALISM invention of the telegraph and the
advent of wire services. Associated press could not slant its stories when it
had both republican and democratic newspapers as clients. “Playing it
straight” – norm in reporting and the era of objective journalism was born.
• Tech changes – telephone, high speed presses and cheaper paper prices
made possible the era of the mass circulation metropolitan daily.
2. BROADCAST MEDIA
1920’s w/ starchy sound crystals sets and headphone- some 80 years later,
we had FM and stereophonic reception.
• “FIRESIDE CHAT” assuring the nation is well – ROOSEVELT. (great
• TV is the product of post – world war II Era, and has changed American
• NOTED : BROADCASTING IS NOT AS FULLY PROTECTED BY THE FIRST
AMENDMENT AS IN THE PRINT PRESS.
• Communications Act of 1934 the FCC charged with responsibility of
regulating broadcasting in the “public interest” convenience and necessity. • Equal Time Rule Requires that all stations that sell their airtime to a
candidate for public office must offer to sell it to his or her opponents too.
• Right Of Rebuttal the target of the attack must be given the
opportunity to respond.
T-17-Propaganda Techniques, Sound Bites and Video Bites in the TV Age
W-18-The Role of Television Debates – Media Bias Problems
Th-19-Social Media, Blogs and Other “New Entrants” in Presidential Politics
Fifth Week: Reading assignment, Molloy, PPA, Chapter 4
M-23 The Powers and Roles of the President;
Presidential Power and Authority
A. Six major roles
a. President is thechief executive he must see and help carry out all
b. Chief Legislature- most legislation starts in white house.
c. Message power- they can recommend things for congress to do.
d. Veto power - if congress passes a law they don’t like they can veto it.