The Micro vs.Macro Perspective
Micro Public Opinion:
-ask individuals about their opinion
• Few citizens hold consistent political opinions & ideologies
• Few citizens have substantial factual knowledge about politics or government
Many citizens don’t care about many issues
• if you ask them questions you are asking question they are not really thinking about-
the answer might not be meaningful
The Public’s Political ‘Knowledge’
-Sources: Michael X.Delli Carpini and Scot Keeter,What Americans Know About Politics and Why It
Matters (1996) & 2004 American National Election Study
84%–Cheney as VP (2004)
73%–Governor of their home state (1989)
60%–majority party in the Senate (2004)
58%–president appoints federal judges (1992)
52%–two U.S.senators per state (1978)
46%–ﬁrst ten amendments as the Bill of Rights (1989)
30%–U.S.representatives serve two year terms (1978)
28%–Rehnquist as Chief Justice of Supreme Court (2004)
20%–name two First Amendment rights (1989)
2%–two Fifth Amendment rights (1989)
• if we think about public opinion at a micro level-they don’t know much
• also,they are not consistent
if they haven't thought about it,their answers will be random
Does an uninformed public matter?
• Gives the government leeway to respond to more narrow interests in some speciﬁc policy
• Allows political leaders to compete to “inform”the public
• campaign excuse
• However,Macro (i.e.,aggregate) public opinion behaves reasonably
-we see consistency,gradual/meaningful changes all the time
• Cancels out individual noise,errors,etc. • aka aggregation gain-mathematical
• Opinion leadership
• aggregate-people pay less attention adopt the opinion from those who pays
• co-worker,neighbor,people whose dog yours plays with
Uninformed Citizens can Make Reasonable Choices
-focus on the overall public,public opinion is meaningful
• Aggregation reduces “noise”and random error
• Citizens use “online”processing to update opinions
-logic: citizens constantly receive information from the political world in different forms.
individual bits of information they encounter regularly in a daily,rolling basis.
• Observe speciﬁc facts
• E.g.,new information,events,etc.
• Update evaluations
• Discard speciﬁc facts
• you discard the fact because you don't need the facts anymore (politics have
nothing to do with your life) and keep your own perceptions
• Thus,we know what we like/dislike even if we can’t recall why
• citizens may don't know the speciﬁcs,but they have ideas.
• their formed general perception that means something
public opinion tends to move in a similar manner • data representation of what we called as "political ideology"
• measuring liberalism
Deﬁnition: A consistent pattern of political attitudes that stem from a core belief
This core belief-drives each individual's opinion on different issue areas
• One dimension or many?
• Common to think about politics in general Liberal vs.Conservative terms
• TENDS TO BE: liberal: more active gov intervention,spending; conservative: less
• Since the 1930s (the New Deal),Liberal vs.Conservative deﬁned in terms of the role of