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Zoo 251

Course Code
MIC 223

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I. Ch. 5: Public Opinion
a. What is public opinion?
i. Public opinion collected attitudes of citizens on a given issue or
b. Why is it important?
i. Politically relevant (it changes over time but now-a-days everything is
politically relevant.)
1. Things the press would not talk about:
a. Weed
b. Infidelity
i. Al Gor may have won if he would have had an
affair because he was just TOO perfect.
c. Health of a president
i. FDR was never shown in his wheelchair just his
chest up
ii. Because in a democracy there has to be a link between what the public
thinks and what the government does.
1. Public opinion should matter…but doesn’t.
2. Government responds to
a. Median income voters
i. Common people
b. Mass-membership groups
c. Business groups
d. Wealthy individuals
i. Top 5%
c. Who is most interested in Public Opinion?
i. Elected officials public opinion may influence decision making
1. Historically very fearful
ii. Academics want to understand why people act the way they do
iii. The people may become motivated to be active in politics
d. Is the public capable of governing? How would you know?
i. No.
1. Public never tests well on knowledge about government.
2. Shortcuts: don’t have time to be informed so they side with other
a. Party
b. Interest groups
c. Trusted friends/family members
3. Surveys say no
a. People aren’t interested in politics
b. Ignorant

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c. Rely on shortcuts
e. Where does it come from?
i. Nature v. nurture
1. Biological or learned
2. 2 possibilities
a. We learn our behaviors and attitudes as we grow
i. Political socializationprocess where people
become aware of politics, learn political facts, and
form political values.
ii. Generational effectsspecific age group uniquely
affected by a historical event (great depression,
baby boom, Vietnam)
iii. Life cycle effectspolitical views based on
iv. Period effectshistorical events that effect
1. EX: 9/11 = generational and period
v. Standard model of socialization: Agents of
1. Family party identification
2. School
3. Community and peers peer pressure and
being swayed by friends’ opinions
4. Mass media
5. Interest Groups try to influence with
mass media
6. Others pop culture
b. Maybe we’re just born this way.
ii. How do we know what it is?
1. Early days = guess
2. Modern days = polls
a. Statistically theory of sampling a sample of individuals
selected randomly from any population is representative of
that population
i. Random = everyone has the chance of being
3. Are polls accurate? What determines that accuracy of a poll?
a. The way the sample is selected
b. The size of the sample
c. The way the survey questionnaire is put together.
i. Is it a leading question?
ii. Is there social desirability?
iii. Is the question clear?

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iv. Is more than one question being asking?
v. Does the question require knowledge the person
doesn’t have?
d. Question ordering
i. Survey responses on question about whether
reporters should be able to report the news from
other countries as they see fit.
e. Polls affect
i. People bandwagon and underdog effects
ii. Candidates and politicians
iii. Media coverage
iv. Election results
4. Know:
a. Exit polls
b. Push polls: poses are survey
i. Ex: 2000 campaign republican party primaries Bush
v. McCain
c. Likely voters
i. The amount of people that are LIKELY to vote in
the upcoming elections
f. Vocab:
i. Core beliefs: beliefs about human nature, the country, government, and
ii. Political attitudes: individuals views about politics
iii. Sample survey: interview of people who are chosen as a representative of
a whole population
iv. Sampling error: statistical uncertainty
v. Political ideology: system of related political beliefs and attitudes
vi. Collective public opinion: political opinions of the public as a whole.
vii. Rational public: idea that the collective public opinion is rational.
viii. Presidential job approval rating: presidents standing with the public
ix. Economic conservatives: people who favor private enterprise and don’t
want the government regulating business.
x. Economic liberals: people who want the government to regulate business
to protect from harm and government spending
xi. Social liberals: people who want civil liberties, abortion, and diff
xii. Social conservatives: people who want traditional values.
xiii. Policy preferences: what the citizens want the government to pursue
xiv. Isolationism: policy avoiding involvement in other country affairs
xv. Unilateralist: stance toward foreign policy that the US should go it alone
xvi. Multilateralism: stance toward foreign policy that the US should help
other countries
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