In Chapters 7 in American Government and Politics. Explain how results of polls can be misleading. Length: 400 words ** Textbook Bessette, Joseph M, and John J, Pitney Jr 2014 American Government an

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In Chapters 7 in American Government and Politics.

Explain how results of polls can be misleading.

Length:  400 words

** Textbook Bessette, Joseph M, and John J, Pitney Jr 2014 American Government and Politics.

In Chapters 7 in American Government and Politics. Explain how results of polls can be misleading. Length: 400 words ** Textbook Bessette, Joseph M, and John J, Pitney Jr 2014 American Government an
American Government and Politics Chapter 7 Public Opinion and Political Participation OBJECTIVES After reading this chapter, you should be able to: • Define the concept of public opinion, and tell how researchers measure it. • Contrast short-term reactions to issues with more deliberative opinions. • Explain the core beliefs that separate different ideologies in the United States. • Summarize the major influences on public opinion about politics. • Recognize different forms of political participation, and analyze how they contribute to deliberation. • Assess inequalities in political participation. • Discuss political participation as a responsibility of citizenship. INTRODUCTION Debating Stephen A. Douglas in 1858, Abraham Lincoln said, “With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed. Consequently he who molds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions.”1 In this chapter, we will look at the impact of public opinion and political participation on the political process. We will ask what it is, how it evolves, how we measure it, and how it translates into political action and policy through civic engagement and the deliberative process. Public opinion is the sum total of individual beliefs about political questions. There are two kinds. The first involves the views that people voice as soon as a question comes up. These instant reactions may burn with feeling (“Throw the bums out!”), but they seldom stem from deep thought. Polls often tap such opinions. Most Americans are not thinking about politics most of the time, so the typical survey resembles a pop quiz on topics that students have not studied. When pollsters ask about world trade or campaign finance reform, people give the first answer that comes to mind. Observers have long worried that such rash expressions drive policy. Americans are also capable of more deliberative opinion. Although they rarely dwell on details, they do reach lasting judgments about large questions. Scholars have shown that public opinion on many issues does not shift wildly, but rather that it responds sensibly to information and events.2 For example, between the 1940s and the 1960s, sentiment shifted from passive acceptance to firm rejection of racial discrimination.3 Where do political opinions come from? Obviously, family and schooling have an impact. Although few people think exactly as their parents or teachers, the lessons they learn in their youth will color their opinions through old age. Individual self-interest also leaves its mark. James Madison wrote, “As long as the connection subsists between [a person’s] reason and his self-love, his opinions and his passions will have a reciprocal influence on each other.”4 When people gain from tax cuts or spending programs, for instance, they tend to see such policies as good for the country. Political reasoning, however, often means more than self-serving rationalization. Particularly with the deliberative form of opinion, judgment may diverge from selfish interest. Few people crave combat, but most believe that national survival may require it. When the sentiment runs deep enough—as it did during World War II—many willingly risk their lives for their country.5 Americans usually find safer ways to put their thoughts into action. Political participation consists of activities aiming to shape the choice of leaders and policies.6 Voting is a central form of political participation. Other forms of participation may involve influencing how fellow citizens vote—attending rallies, wearing campaign buttons, working for candidates, or making political contributions. Some kinds of political participation have a less direct link to elections. People write to public officials, tweet political messages, or speak up at town hall meetings. These activities advance policy deliberation by drawing attention to issues or arguments. Ordinary citizens may persuade their officials on the merits of an issue, but the electoral connection still lies in the background. Elected officials will lose votes if they ignore what their constituents are saying. That prospect gives public opinion much of its political force, confirming what Lincoln said in 1858. But why do citizens bother to participate at all? Self-interest is part of the reason, but it cannot explain it all. Although turnout is lower in the United States than in many other countries, millions of Americans vote for public offices that have little direct effect on them. Many rally around issues involving distant lands or future generations. Such participation stems from a broad sense of citizenship. Some take up political activity because they believe that certain causes or candidates will serve the public interest. Others see politics as a civic duty in itself. When you voice an opinion about war or another political issue, your friends might ask you a couple of questions: “Why do you think that?” and “So what are you going to do about it?” This chapter is about both of these questions, explaining the origins of opinions and participation, and the links between them. It makes sense to consider these topics together. After all, we study opinions precisely because citizens act on them. Moreover, scholars often use the same kinds of tools for measuring opinion and participation. Political participation—activities aiming to shape the structure and policies of the government, as well as the choice of those who run it. Public opinion—an aggregate of individual beliefs about political questions. 87897_ch07_ptg01_hr_211-234.indd 212 11/7/12 11:14 AM Copyright 2013 Cengage Learning. All Rights Reserved. May not be copied, scanned, or duplicated, in whole or in part. Due to electronic rights, some third party content may be suppressed from the eBook and/or eChapter(s). Editorial review has deemed that any suppressed content does not materially affect the overall learning experience. Cengage Learning reserves the right to remove additional content at any time if subsequent rights restrictions require it. CHAPteR 7 Public Opinion and Political Participation 213 # 109826 Cust: Cengage Learning / OH / Wadsworth Au: Bessette/Pitney Pg. No. 213 Title: American Government and Politics: Deliberation, Democracy and Citizenship Server: C / M / Y / K Short / Normal DESIGN SERVICES OF carlisle Publishing Services MEASURING OPINION MAJOR ISSUE • How can we know the state of public opinion? Opinion is a state of mind. Medical imaging may someday show how the brain mulls politics.7 Until then, we must infer thoughts from acts. Lincoln and Douglas gauged sentiment by listening to audiences, reading mail, and studying newspapers. Politicians still do. Such informal methods are frequently unreliable. Many people with strong opinions may lack the time to write, call, or show up at meetings. Conversely, floods of letters, e-mails, and phone messages might not represent spontaneous outpourings of public sentiment. Campaigns and interest groups often stir them up to create the appearance of a groundswell. They persuade people to get in touch with officials, newspapers, and radio call-in shows, even supplying model letters or phone scripts. They bus people to rallies and give them signs to wave. Most people, however, rarely write political letters or attend rallies. To understand these quiet Americans, politicians and reporters may talk with “the person in the street.” The problem with this approach is that a few chats are more likely to reflect a particular time and place than to represent a cross section of the public. In midmorning, younger people are at work or in school, so retirees rule the street. Interviews at 10 a.m. will show more concern about social security than student aid. Elections provide only a partial picture of opinion. First, the returns are silent about the thoughts of nonvoters. Second, although they reveal the voters’ choices, they tell nothing about motives. Did the Republican takeover of the House in 2010 reflect support for their policies, doubts about President Obama, or something else? The electoral tallies did not say. Measuring public sentiment requires another tool: the public opinion poll. Polls and Respondents A public opinion poll (or survey) is a device that gauges public opinion by asking people a standard set of questions. In addition to opinions, pollsters may also ask about behavior (e.g., past votes) and intentions (e.g., future votes). No pollster can afford to survey all adults in a state, much less the country. The solution is to take a random sample, a relatively small group of people who represent the larger group that the pollster wants to study (e.g., all Americans, or residents of a state or district). A sample is “random” if everyone in the larger group has an equal chance of being in it. Nearly all households have phone service, so pollsters usually reach their samples through random-digit dialing, in which a computer picks phone numbers by chance. This technique is better than choosing numbers out of a directory since it allows pollsters to call people with unpublished numbers or new addresses. Honest pollsters can only claim to get reasonably accurate results. The New York Times has explained its polling this way: “In theory, in 19 cases out of 20, overall results based on such samples will differ by no more than three percentage points in either direction from what would have been obtained by seeking out all American adults. For smaller subgroups, the margin of sampling error is larger.”8 When a potential poll respondent answers the phone, the pollster asks screening questions to learn whether she or he belongs to the group under study. In an election survey, the pollster asks whether the person has registered to vote. If not, the interview might stop. Many of those eligible to vote do not cast ballots, so as Election Day draws close, pollsters may ask questions to spot likely voters, those with the greatest chance of casting a ballot. These questions, involving voting history and interest, differ from pollster to pollster, which is one reason why election surveys may yield different results.9 Questions Obviously, a survey’s meaning hinges on its questions. Small differences in wording can yield big differences in the numbers. Consider a 2003 survey of Americans about Islam Public opinion poll (or survey)—a device for measuring public opinion, usually consisting of a standard set of questions that one administers to a sample of the public. Random sample—a subset of people who are representative of a larger group because everyone in the larger group has an equal chance of selection. Random-digit dialing—the process of finding poll respondents by calling phone numbers from random-number generators. The aim is to reach people with unpublished or recently assigned telephone numbers. Likely voter—prior to the election, one with the greatest probability of casting a ballot. Pollsters have different methods for identifying likely voters. 87897_ch07_ptg01_hr_211-234.indd 213 11/7/12 11:14 AM Copyright 2013 Cengage Learning. All Rights Reserved. May not be copied, scanned, or duplicated, in whole or in part. Due to electronic rights, some third party content may be suppressed from the eBook and/or eChapter(s). Editorial review has deemed that any suppressed content does not materially affect the overall learning experience. Cengage Learning reserves the right to remove additional content at any time if subsequent rights restrictions require it. 214 CHAPteR 7 Public Opinion and Political Participation # 109826 Cust: Cengage Learning / OH / Wadsworth Au: Bessette/Pitney Pg. No. 214 Title: American Government and Politics: Deliberation, Democracy and Citizenship Server: C / M / Y / K Short / Normal DESIGN SERVICES OF carlisle Publishing Services and Muslims. When it asked about “Muslim-Americans,” 51% were favorable and 24% were unfavorable. With “Muslims,” the answers shifted to 47% favorable and 31% unfavorable. Respondents were even less favorable to “Islam,” 40% to 34%.10 Complicated questions may confuse or mislead. One poll asked, “Does it seem possible or does it seem impossible to you that the Nazi extermination of the Jews never occurred?” More than a fifth said that it seemed possible, which shocked many observers, but experts noted the question’s double negative (“impossible”/“never occurred”). When pollsters simplified the question, only 1% said that it seemed possible that the Holocaust never happened.11 Wording and detail have the biggest impact when people have mixed feelings. Abortion is a vivid example. In May 2011, Gallup asked, “With respect to the abortion issue, do you consider yourself to be pro-choice or pro-life?” Respondents chose the pro-choice side over the pro-life side, 49%– 45%. The poll also asked, “Do you think abortions should be legal under any circumstances, legal only under certain circumstances, or illegal in all circumstances?” This time, 50% said “legal under certain circumstances” with 27% saying “legal under any circumstances” and 22% saying “illegal under all circumstances”; and 51%, believed abortion is “morally wrong,” while 39% said it is “morally acceptable.”12 Later that year, Gallup found that “pro-choice” and “pro-life” Americans actually agreed on several major areas of abortion policy. Large majorities of both groups favored requiring informed consent for women and banning abortion in the third trimester.13 The order of the questions can affect results. A set of items about an incumbent’s record may remind respondents about what they like or dislike about the person. Accordingly, a question about overall approval may get different results if it follows such a series instead of preceding it.14 Pollsters can remedy such difficulties by rotating the order of questions or choices. Types of Polls A survey usually takes several days. Whatever sample size the pollsters want, they must make a greater number of calls because random-digit dialing will often connect with modems and fax machines. Even when they do reach a household, they might not get an answer. One day’s interviews may give a faulty picture, as certain people are unavailable at certain times. Members of a faith may decline to pick up the phone on their holy days, and many football fans are unreachable during night games. With such cautions in mind, survey researchers often use tracking polls to follow shifts in opinion during campaigns. Every day, a tracking poll surveys several hundred people; over two or three days, it should catch a good random sample. Each day, the tracking poll drops the oldest interviews to make room for the newest. On Thursday, the poll reports results from Tuesday and Wednesday. On Friday, the poll drops the Tuesday numbers and reports Wednesday–Thursday results, and so on. In theory, a tracking poll provides a “rolling average” that will register day-to-day changes. In practice, however, tracking polls sometimes take shortcuts, such as using small samples or failing to call back respondents who were not home. These shortcuts may undermine their reliability.15 News organizations use exit polls to explain election results. In a national exit poll, the organization samples polling places, where temporary workers ask voters to fill out questionnaires, such as the example in the photo. (The growing use of mail ballots means that Exit poll—survey that measures the opinions of voters as they leave polling places. At the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, a student calls randomly generated telephone numbers in a survey on current political questions. Sven Martson/The Image Works FOCUS QUESTION Is the American public basically pro-choice or pro-life on abortion? Does it make sense to pose the question that way? If you find these labels to be inadequate, how would you describe public opinion on the issue? Tracking poll—a survey that measures day-to-day changes in public opinion by updating the sample each day. 87897_ch07_ptg01_hr_211-234.indd 214 11/7/12 11:14 AM Copyright 2013 Cengage Learning. All Rights Reserved. May not be copied, scanned, or duplicated, in whole or in part. Due to electronic rights, some third party content may be suppressed from the eBook and/or eChapter(s). Editorial review has deemed that any suppressed content does not materially affect the overall learning experience. Cengage Learning reserves the right to remove additional content at any time if subsequent rights restrictions require it. CHAPteR 7 Public Opinion and Political Participation 215 # 109826 Cust: Cengage Learning / OH / Wadsworth Au: Bessette/Pitney Pg. No. 215 Title: American Government and Politics: Deliberation, Democracy and Citizenship Server: C / M / Y / K Short / Normal DESIGN SERVICES OF carlisle Publishing Services pollsters cannot capture a full sample at polling places, and they must also take phone surveys of absentees.) In principle, this method has several advantages. First, by sampling people who have just left the booth, exit polls avoid the uncertainty of identifying likely voters. Second, exit polls find voters at the peak of their political knowledge and interest. Third, they involve thousands of respondents. Telephone polls usually have hundreds, which is enough for findings about the whole electorate but not for specific groups. Such a sample may only include 20 or so Asian Americans, too small a “subsample” to yield a meaningful result. With larger samples, exit polls enable analysts to draw more detailed portraits of the electorate. News organizations sometimes invite everyone to respond to questions by phone, mail, or Internet. Although these pseudo-polls may get many responses, they are practically worthless. Respondents consist not of a random sample but only those who choose to take part. Activists often stuff the box. During the 2008 and 2012 nomination campaigns, Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) won online polls that followed Republican debates, even though most legitimate polls showed his support in single digits. Focus groups are another device for studying opinion. Instead of large samples of people who answer from their homes, focus groups consist of small numbers who gather in one place. The analyst may have them discuss an issue, perhaps with cameras rolling behind a one-way mirror. Focus groups can help pollsters draft questionnaires or flesh out survey data, but candidates and news organizations sometimes use them as substitutes for polls, drawing conclusions from a few casual reactions. Problems with Polls Even the best polls can run into trouble. High rates of nonresponse can skew the data, because the people who refuse to talk to pollsters may have different views from those who do. The problem may be getting worse.16 Americans are using caller ID and voicemail, picking up only for familiar numbers or voices. After spending a day as a survey caller, one reporter recounted the following exchange: “Hi, this is Colleen with Texas Research. I’m not trying to sell you anything. . . .” (extended scream) “So, you’re not willing to participate in the survey?” (scream continues) “Thanks for your time.”17 Cellular phones mean further problems. Pollsters can save money by using automatic dialers, but federal law forbids the use of such devices for unsolicited calls to cellular Focus group —a set of ordinary people who agree to gather for an in-depth group interview about their opinions. Nonattitudes—answers that survey respondents give even when they have no real opinion on the question. Pages from the National election Pool’s exit poll questionnaire for the 2008 Democratic presidential primary in Pennsylvania. © 2008 Edison Media Research/Mitofsky International. All rights reserved 87897_ch07_ptg01_hr_211-234.indd 215 11/7/12 11:14 AM Copyright 2013 Cengage Learning. All Rights Reserved. May not be copied, scanned, or duplicated, in whole or in part. Due to electronic rights, some third party content may be suppressed from the eBook and/or eChapter(s). Editorial review has deemed that any suppressed content does not materially affect the overall learning experience. Cengage Learning reserves the right to remove additional content at any time if subsequent rights restrictions require it. 216 CHAPteR 7 Public Opinion and Political Participation # 109826 Cust: Cengage Learning / OH / Wadsworth Au: Bessette/Pitney Pg. No. 216 Title: American Government and Politics: Deliberation, Democracy and Citizenship Server: C / M / Y / K Short / Normal DESIGN SERVICES OF carlisle Publishing Services phones. As more and more Americans rely on their cellular phone as their main line, pollsters may risk missing an important part of the population.18 In 2008, the Gallup Poll announced that it would take the costly step of including “cell only” respondents in its samples.19 Not all pollsters have followed suit, however. False responses are another problem. People often overreport acceptable behavior and underreport unacceptable behavior. Some misremember what they did; others lie. Relying on head counts from churches, one study reckoned that worship attendance is only half as great as polls say.20 Election pollsters have long noted that many nonvoters claim to have cast ballots. In comparison with vote totals, some polls have overstated turnout by as much as 24%.21 When surveys involve elections, researchers can check their results against vote tallies, but when pollsters ask about beliefs, the only way to check one survey is to take a second, which may also yield false responses. Social scientists have techniques for foiling deception and uncovering “hidden” feelings, but they are scarcely foolproof. A related challenge involves nonattitudes. People often answer questions when they have no opinion. A 1978 survey asked Cincinnati residents about the 1975 Public Affairs Act. About a third voiced an opinion— even though there was no 1975 Public Affairs Act. Researchers had made it up to test whether people would answer questions that they knew nothing about. In 1995, pollsters for the Washington Post repeated the test nationally. This time, 43% gave an opinion, with 24% agreeing with repeal and 19% disagreeing.22 Pollsters can partially guard against the problem by asking people whether they have an opinion at all and reassuring them that it is okay not to. Even so, some will insist on offering nonattitudes. In examining poll data, therefore, readers should remember a line from Alexis de Tocqueville: “When statistics are not based on strictly accurate calculations, they mislead instead of guide.”23 Reverse side of questionnaire. © 2008 Edison Media Research/Mitofsky International. All rights reserved In some focus groups, participants record their responses electronically. this graph shows how one group responded to a press conference by President Obama. (Higher scores mean more favorable reactions.) From “Real-Time Focus Group Grades Obama’s Press Conference.” NielsenWire March 25, 2009. http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/ obama_dial_tracking1.png. Reprinted by permission of The Nielsen Company. 87897_ch07_ptg01_hr_211-234.indd 216 11/7/12 11:14 AM Copyright 2013 Cengage Learning. All Rights Reserved. May not be copied, scanned, or duplicated, in whole or in part. Due to electronic rights, some third party content may be suppressed from the eBook and/or eChapter(s). Editorial review has deemed that any suppressed content does not materially affect the overall learning experience. Cengage Learning reserves the right to remove additional content at any time if subsequent rights restrictions require it. CHAPteR 7 Public Opinion and Political Participation 217 # 109826 Cust: Cengage Learning / OH / Wadsworth Au: Bessette/Pitney Pg. No. 217 Title: American Government and Politics: Deliberation, Democracy and Citizenship Server: C / M / Y / K Short / Normal DESIGN SERVICES OF carlisle Publishing Services KNOWLEDGE AND DELIBERATIVE OPINION MAJOR ISSUE • How can public officials distinguish fleeting opinions from lasting judgments, and how does this distinction affect their decisions? Even real attitudes are not necessarily deep or well founded. Many surveys show serious gaps in public knowledge. Several months after the dramatic 2010 midterm elections, only 38% knew that Republicans controlled the House, but not the Senate or the whole Congress. Just 43% knew that John Boehner was Speaker, and 19% incorrectly thought that Nancy Pelosi still held that job.24 As the Supreme Court was hearing oral arguments on the health care law in 2012, a survey showed a number of respondents either thought that the Court had overturned it (14%) or were unsure (28%).25 When a 2010 poll presented respondents with a list of names, just over a quarter correctly identified John Roberts as the chief justice. More than half admitted that they did not know, while 8% chose former justice Thurgood Marshall, who had been dead for 17 years.26 Lack of knowledge can lead to inconsistent poll results. By a 2–1 margin, Gallup found in 2011 that Americans wanted to pay for jobs legislation by raising taxes on individuals making more than $200,000 a year.27Around the same time, another poll asked respondents about “the maximum percentage that the federal government should take from any individual’s income” and then offered alternatives ranging from 10% to 50%. Nearly two-thirds of voters said the maximum tax rate should be 20% or lower.28 Because the top marginal rate was actually 35%, a 20% maximum would have meant a big tax cut for high-income Americans, not an increase. People often fail to think through the consequences of their opinions, especially when the issue is remote or the question is abstract. Columnist Michael Kinsley notes that support for nuclear power plunged after much-publicized accidents at Three Mile Island in 1979 and Chernobyl in 1986. It gradually rose, then dropped again after a nuclear disaster at Fukushima, Japan, in March 2011. “This suggests that people want the advantages of nuclear power without the risks. This is an understandable position—but not a reasonable one.”29 “The first lesson you learn as a pollster is that people are stupid,” says Democratic pollster Tom Jensen. “I tell a client trying to make sense of numbers on a poll that are inherently contradictory at least once a week.”30 The great political scientist V. O. Key, however, offered an alternative view: “Voters are not fools.”31 Because of work and family, many people lack the time to study politics. Instead, they take reasonable shortcuts.32 For instance, they make presidential choices by weighing the country’s condition, the candidates’ affiliations, and other bits of information. The electorate, Key said, acts as rationally as we can expect, “given the clarity of the alternatives presented to it and the character of the information available to it.”33 Indeed, there are cases in which voters come to a judgment with eyes open to benefits and costs. Take capital punishment. Nearly everyone knows what it means, and since the late 1960s, public opinion has consistently favored it. In the late 1990s, the press carried stories about DNA tests that freed wrongly convicted prisoners. In 2008, 95% of the public acknowledged that the death penalty could lead to the execution of innocents.34 Yet, as we see in Figure  7-1, support for capital punishment never dipped below 60%. Pollster Daniel Yankelovich writes, “Many experts disagree with the public’s judgment on the death penalty, and I am not claiming that the public is correct either morally or factually. I am emphasizing the important fact that . . . the public is conscious here of the consequences of its views and is prepared to accept them.”35 Politicians and Deliberative Opinion In 2007, New Jerseyans agreed with their fellow Americans on the death penalty: by a margin of 53% to 39%, they opposed repeal.36 At the same time, however, the state legislature passed a repeal measure, which the governor signed. This case illustrates two important 87897_ch07_ptg01_hr_211-234.indd 217 11/7/12 11:14 AM Copyright 2013 Cengage Learning. All Rights Reserved. May not be copied, scanned, or duplicated, in whole or in part. Due to electronic rights, some third party content may be suppressed from the eBook and/or eChapter(s). Editorial review has deemed that any suppressed content does not materially affect the overall learning experience. Cengage Learning reserves the right to remove additional content at any time if subsequent rights restrictions require it. 218 CHAPteR 7 Public Opinion and Political Participation # 109826 Cust: Cengage Learning / OH / Wadsworth Au: Bessette/Pitney Pg. No. 218 Title: American Government and Politics: Deliberation, Democracy and Citizenship Server: C / M / Y / K Short / Normal DESIGN SERVICES OF carlisle Publishing Services points about the ways in which elected officials consult public opinion. First, they do not automatically obey all the poll numbers that they see. In deliberating on policy decisions, they consider the merits of the issues. In this instance, the state had not put anyone to death in many years, but the death penalty had forced New Jersey to pay hundreds of millions for prosecutors, public defenders, courts, and death row facilities. Among other things, opponents of the death penalty argued that it had become too costly.37 Second, politicians know that public opinion has nuances. While supporting the death penalty, New Jerseyans preferred life imprisonment without parole for first-degree murderers. Most wanted to restrict the death penalty to the most heinous criminals, such as child killers.38 Accordingly, the action of the governor and the legislature was less inconsistent with public opinion than it may seem at first. Furthermore, foes of the death penalty had managed to win elections in places that strongly supported it. New Jersey officials apparently concluded that repeal would not end their careers. Recent presidencies provide additional insights into the complex relationship between politicians and public opinion. President Bill Clinton’s critics accused him of bending his policies to polls. Clinton had a different account, using the example of a popular tax bill that he would veto: I can say, I’m going to veto this because it only helps less than 2 percent of the people and half of the relief goes to one-tenth of one percent of the people and it’s an average $10 million. That is a populist explanation. I can say, I’m going to veto it because we only have so much money for tax cuts. . . . Or I could say, I think there should be estate tax relief [although] it’s not fair to totally repeal it. . . . So I could make either of those three arguments. It’s helpful to me to know what you’re thinking. I know what I think is right. I’m not going to change what I think is right. But in order to continue to be effective, you have to believe I’m right. So that’s kind of what I use polls for.39 Deliberative Polling As suggested earlier, surveys often catch respondents by surprise. If pollsters gave people a chance to deliberate about the issues, would they get a clearer picture of what informed public opinion would be? Political scientist James Fishkin, director of Stanford’s Center for Deliberative Democracy, has tried to find out with “deliberative polls.” The Center describes the process this way: A random, representative sample is first polled on the targeted issues. After this baseline poll, members of the sample are invited to gather at a single place for a weekend in order to discuss the issues. Carefully balanced briefing materials are sent to the participants and are also made publicly available. The participants engage in dialogue with competing experts and political leaders based on questions they develop in small group discussions with trained moderators. Parts of the weekend events are broadcast on television, either live or in taped and edited form. FIGURE 7-1 Support for the death penalty has declined substantially from its peak in the 1990s, but Americans still favor it by a large margin. SOURCe: Frank Newport, “In U.S., Support for Death Penalty Falls to 39-Year Low,” Gallup Poll, October 13, 2011, at http://www.gallup.com/poll/150089/Support-Death-Penalty-Falls-Year-Low.aspx, accessed April 23, 2012. Reprinted with Permission. Are you in favor of the death penalty for a person convicted of murder? 1936–2011 trend 90 80 70 59 68 47 47 49 66 75 79 80 66 7067 64 64 61 35 30 28 31 2526 1617 16 26 40 42 34 25 38 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 ’36’39 ’42 ’45’48’51’54 ’57 ’60 ’63 ’66’69 ’72’75’78 ’81’84 ’87’90’93 ’96 ’99’02 ’05’08 ’11’14 % In favor % Opposed 87897_ch07_ptg01_hr_211-234.indd 218 11/7/12 11:14 AM Copyright 2013 Cengage Learning. All Rights Reserved. May not be copied, scanned, or duplicated, in whole or in part. Due to electronic rights, some third party content may be suppressed from the eBook and/or eChapter(s). Editorial review has deemed that any suppressed content does not materially affect the overall learning experience. Cengage Learning reserves the right to remove additional content at any time if subsequent rights restrictions require it. CHAPteR 7 Public Opinion and Political Participation 219 # 109826 Cust: Cengage Learning / OH / Wadsworth Au: Bessette/Pitney Pg. No. 219 Title: American Government and Politics: Deliberation, Democracy and Citizenship Server: C / M / Y / K Short / Normal DESIGN SERVICES OF carlisle Publishing Services After the deliberations, the sample is again asked the original questions. The resulting changes in opinion represent the conclusions the public would reach, if people had opportunity to become more informed and more engaged by the issues.40 One such poll took place in California in mid-2011. On certain issues, attitudes shifted quite a bit: for instance, support for lengthening the terms of state legislators nearly doubled. The process also improved the respondents’ knowledge of state government. On average, correct answers to factual survey questions rose 18% over the course of the sessions.41 “It was striking how smart and thoughtful the participants were,” wrote journalist Joe Mathews.42 He also reported that they had a hard time understanding California’s complicated system of government, especially the relationship of localities to the state. Deliberative polling has drawbacks. The “nonpartisan” briefing materials may omit views that would get a hearing in the real world. Libertarian writer Tim Cavanaugh wrote of those who contributed to the California poll: “In my experience ‘nonpartisan’ in contexts like this means ‘encompassing both Republicans and Democrats’ . . . I can say that not one group on the list comes within a country mile of my own view of the proper relationship of state power to individual liberty.”43 Moreover, group dynamics may take odd turns in deliberative polls, and the presence of observers may distort responses. Finally, a few days of conferences cannot replace years of kitchen-table conversations. Nevertheless, deliberative polls do represent an attempt to move beyond snapshots of snap thoughts. DELIBERATION AND IDEOLOGY MAJOR ISSUE • What core beliefs separate different ideologies in America? Deliberation requires elements of agreement and disagreement. Unless people share some assumptions, they will just talk past one another. A debate about protecting equal rights will sputter if one of the parties believes in inequality. Conversely, discussion without disagreement will give neither heat nor light. Management theorist Peter Drucker wrote, “The first rule in decision-making is that one does not make a decision unless there is disagreement.”44 Political Ideology In public policy deliberation, disagreements often reflect different political ideologies— systems of belief about what government should do. Of the many ways to label political ideologies, the simplest is to contrast liberals and conservatives. Those who put themselves somewhere in between are moderates. A 2011 poll found that 21% of American adults considered themselves liberal, 41% conservative, and 36% moderate.45 Conservatives tend to identify with the Republican Party, while liberals side with the Democrats. As we use them today, the terms “liberalism” and “conservatism” have departed from their original meanings. Until the early 1900s, liberals favored less government regulation. The twentieth century saw greater support for government action as a counterweight to concentrations of economic power. Liberals came to see activist policies as a way to free people from this power. In a generic sense, “conservatism” has always referred to a reluctance to change. President Reagan, who personified conservatism in the late twentieth century, had a different view. He often quoted Thomas Paine: “We have it within our power to begin the world over again.”46 Many modern conservatives, for example, favor voucher systems that would fundamentally change education policy. Liberals, Conservatives, Libertarians, Populists One way to understand contemporary liberalism and conservatism is to look at three areas of argument: economics, social issues, and international relations. Political ideology—a comprehensive system of belief about what government should do. Liberal—in contemporary American usage, one who favors more government activity to foster economic equality, and less activity to promote traditional social values. Conservative—in contemporary American usage, one who wants less government activity on economic issues, and more activity to promote traditional social values. Moderate—one whose opinion falls between that of a liberal and a conservative. 87897_ch07_ptg01_hr_211-234.indd 219 11/7/12 11:14 AM Copyright 2013 Cengage Learning. All Rights Reserved. May not be copied, scanned, or duplicated, in whole or in part. Due to electronic rights, some third party content may be suppressed from the eBook and/or eChapter(s). Editorial review has deemed that any suppressed content does not materially affect the overall learning experience. Cengage Learning reserves the right to remove additional content at any time if subsequent rights restrictions require it. 220 CHAPteR 7 Public Opinion and Political Participation # 109826 Cust: Cengage Learning / OH / Wadsworth Au: Bessette/Pitney Pg. No. 220 Title: American Government and Politics: Deliberation, Democracy and Citizenship Server: C / M / Y / K Short / Normal DESIGN SERVICES OF carlisle Publishing Services On economics, liberals believe that the principle of equality should involve material conditions, for the poor cannot exercise their rights as effectively as the rich. They favor national policies to reduce inequalities of income and curb corporate power. Conservatives reply that these policies may slow economic growth and transfer power from an economic elite to a political elite. Liberals worry about corporate power and failures of the private economy, whereas conservatives warn against government power and the failures of public policy.47 On social issues, conservatives think that government should support traditional standards of behavior, while liberals stress individual choice. Conservatives support “religionfriendly” measures such as allowing the use of school facilities for vocal group prayer and providing government funds for faith-based community service. Liberals are more skeptical of such measures, holding that government should stay neutral in matters of religion. Most conservatives would tighten limits on abortion, whereas liberals usually oppose greater restrictions. Ideological positions are not always consistent on specific social issues. Conservatives generally think that government should be able to curb access to narcotics and pornography but are leery of restrictions on firearms. Liberals lean in the opposite direction. On international relations, liberals in recent years have emphasized diplomacy, and conservatives emphasize military strength. Liberals give more weight to the opinions of other countries and international bodies such as the United Nations. Conservatives are more willing to assert American power. American ideologies do not stop with liberalism and conservatism. Libertarians would limit government across the board. Like conservatives, they want to cut taxes and public spending; but like liberals, they oppose government intervention in issues such as abortion. Populists take the opposite view, favoring strong government action in both economics and social matters. Few recent polls have gauged the number of libertarians and populists. Although these ideologies are arguably more consistent than contemporary liberalism or conservatism, they have not found a firm political base. Ron Paul ran as the Libertarian Party candidate for president in 1988 and got less than one percent of the vote. In 2008 and 2012, he sought the Republican nomination. Despite raising substantial funds and gathering a passionate corps of volunteers, he did not win a single primary either time. We should be cautious about applying ideological categories to the general public. Those who call themselves liberals or conservatives may have opinions at odds with a strict interpretation of their belief systems. Some conservatives oppose limits on abortion and favor recognition of same-sex marriage. Some liberals disagree with restrictions on the ownership of firearms. Such departures suggest that there is more to acquiring political opinions than pinning on an ideological label. Events and trends in public policy can shift ideological lines. In light of the global threats of the past 80 years, few liberals would reduce the military to the very low levels of the 1930s. Similarly, few conservatives would completely scrap the social welfare programs that have grown during the same period. In 2008 and 2009, economic turmoil prompted Congress to enact huge increases in federal spending. For a while, it seemed that Americans approved of the expansion of government’s role, but sentiment then turned against it. How will memories of current times affect the beliefs of future generations? This question is especially significant, for as we shall now see, history can exert a deep influence on political opinions. WHAT INFLUENCES OUR OPINIONS ABOUT POLITICS? MAJOR ISSUE • What affects our views about politics? Social scientists have identified broad patterns in the way people develop their political thought, but remember the difference between broad patterns and iron laws. There is a great deal of room for variation and change over time. Keep in mind that people can think for themselves. Libertarian—one who favors less government activity across the board, including economic and social issues. Populist—one who favors increased government activity both to regulate the economy and to protect traditional social norms. FOCUS QUESTION If there is another economic crisis like that of 2008–2009, will public opinion again turn in favor of government activism, or will it move in a different direction entirely? 87897_ch07_ptg01_hr_211-234.indd 220 11/7/12 11:14 AM Copyright 2013 Cengage Learning. All Rights Reserved. May not be copied, scanned, or duplicated, in whole or in part. Due to electronic rights, some third party content may be suppressed from the eBook and/or eChapter(s). Editorial review has deemed that any suppressed content does not materially affect the overall learning experience. Cengage Learning reserves the right to remove additional content at any time if subsequent rights restrictions require it. CHAPteR 7 Public Opinion and Political Participation 221 # 109826 Cust: Cengage Learning / OH / Wadsworth Au: Bessette/Pitney Pg. No. 221 Title: American Government and Politics: Deliberation, Democracy and Citizenship Server: C / M / Y / K Short / Normal DESIGN SERVICES OF carlisle Publishing Services Political Socialization Political socialization is the process by which people gain their opinions and knowledge about politics. In childhood, the key agent of socialization is the family. Parents teach children their first lessons about life, including politics. From household conversations, children pick up many of their parents’ political beliefs. More often than chance would explain, they will eventually belong to the same political party as adult family members. Families also shape political beliefs in less direct ways. A family’s social and economic background may affect children’s thinking regardless of how often the parents talk politics. In 1927, debts forced a small-town druggist in South Dakota to sell his house. His 16-yearold son remembered years later, “It was the moment I ceased being a child, when I began to have an adult’s awareness of the pain and tragedy in life. It was sharpened because about the same time other people in town began suffering similar losses of home and happiness.”48 The son was Hubert H. Humphrey, who went on to serve as U.S. senator and vice president. During his career, he championed liberal causes such as bank regulation. His father’s experience gave him a special sympathy for victims of the Great Depression. Humphrey concluded that the market economy had failed them all and that government action was necessary to prevent such disasters. When families choose a home, they are placing children in a certain political environment. Whether the locale is liberal or conservative, children may absorb the views of friends and neighbors. A family’s religious faith also exposes children to political influences. In Humphrey’s case, the family attended a Methodist church where the preaching of the Social Gospel buttressed his budding liberalism. Formal education is another force in socialization. Schools usually sidestep ideological struggles, but they have traditionally taught core principles. One example is Michigan’s curricular framework, which says: “All students will explain the meaning and origin of the ideas, including the core democratic values expressed in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and other foundational documents of the United States.”49 In the past decade, schools have stepped up efforts at civic education, with mixed results. Between 2006 and 2010, civic scores went up for fourth-graders, stayed the same for eighth-graders, and went down for twelfth-graders.50 As people age, other influences come into play. Those from modest backgrounds may grow rich, and their new friends and economic interests may nudge their political beliefs in a new direction. College students generally give little thought to property taxes, but they may later develop strong views when they buy real estate. It is hard to sort out these influences because there are so many links among them. Family background helps shape careers and marital choices. In turn, economic and marital status has much to do with where people live and whom they befriend. Also, at any stage in a person’s life, major historical events can have an effect. Perhaps the clearest example is the Great Depression, which greatly increased support for federal aid to the needy and led directly to the passage of programs such as Social Security. A decade Political socialization—the longterm process by which people gain their opinions and knowledge about politics. In the 2012 presidential campaign, families pass along their political beliefs to their children. NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images Rich Addicks/The New York Times/Redux 87897_ch07_ptg01_hr_211-234.indd 221 11/7/12 11:14 AM Copyright 2013 Cengage Learning. All Rights Reserved. May not be copied, scanned, or duplicated, in whole or in part. Due to electronic rights, some third party content may be suppressed from the eBook and/or eChapter(s). Editorial review has deemed that any suppressed content does not materially affect the overall learning experience. Cengage Learning reserves the right to remove additional content at any time if subsequent rights restrictions require it. 222 CHAPteR 7 Public Opinion and Political Participation # 109826 Cust: Cengage Learning / OH / Wadsworth Au: Bessette/Pitney Pg. No. 222 Title: American Government and Politics: Deliberation, Democracy and Citizenship Server: C / M / Y / K Short / Normal DESIGN SERVICES OF carlisle Publishing Services after September 11, 2001, the terror attacks kept their hold on the public mind. Nearly all survey respondents could recall what they were doing when the attacks took place. Most said that the day had a deep personal effect and that the attacks changed the nation.51 The long-term impact is not as obvious, however. The attacks increased concern about terrorism and, in the short run, led to support for more homeland security spending and surveillance of suspected terrorists. But amid controversies about wiretapping and the treatment of detainees at Guanténamo Bay, polls showed divisions over antiterrorism policy. Political Persuasion Political writers and activists hope to sway the undecided and convert the opposition, but a mind is a difficult thing to change. Hand a political pamphlet to someone without interest in politics, and that person will likely throw it away without reading it. Politicians and other activists try to get around this barrier by taking part in events that are otherwise nonpolitical. Local candidates shake hands at county fairs and march in Memorial Day parades, while national candidates long for opportunities to appear on The Daily Show. Among those with an interest in politics, selective exposure poses another hurdle. This concept refers to the tendency to seek out information sources that back one’s existing beliefs and to spurn sources that dispute them. Conservatives and liberals tend to favor programs and publications that are friendly to their ideologies. In a 2010 survey, Republicans outnumbered Democrats by 44% to 21% in the audience of the conservative-leaning Fox News Channel. Viewers of liberal-leaning MSNBC were strongly Democratic, 53% to 14%.52 Another survey found that 18% of social network users had blocked, unfriended, or hidden someone because of that person’s views or political Internet activity. In all, 28% of liberals had taken such steps, compared with 16% of conservatives and 14% of moderates.53 When political figures do catch the attention of people they might persuade, what methods work? Aristotle named three.54 Ethos refers to the character of the person making the cases. The more authoritative the source, the more likely that people will believe the message. Pathos is an appeal to emotion. Political speakers and writers usually summon symbols or memories that evoke strong feelings. Logos is an appeal to reason. Cynics belittle the role of logic in political persuasion, but logic can indeed shape opinion, provided that the words are clear. Racial issues show how public opinion can shift decisively over time. A 1944 poll asked white respondents whether blacks “should have as good a chance as white people to get any kind of a job, or do you think white people should have the first chance at any kind of job?” A 52% majority said that whites should have the first chance. In 1972, only 3% said so.55 On questions ranging from intermarriage to education, support swung from segregation to integration. Sixty-four years after Americans said that whites should come first, they elected a black president. Civil rights leaders sparked the transformation. Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., contributed ethos by building a broad coalition. As the photo suggests, he enlisted support from many segments of American society. His stirring oratory added elements of pathos and logos, invoking the nation’s core values and appealing to broad national interests: “When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was After his famous March on Washington on August 28, 1963, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and his supporters meet with President Kennedy at the White House. Left to right: Whitney Young Jr. (Urban League); Martin Luther King Jr. (SCLC); John Lewis (SNCC); Rabbi Joachim Prinz (American Jewish Congress); Dr. eugene Carson Blake (National Council of Churches); A. Philip Randolph; President Kennedy; Walter Reuther (United Auto Workers); Vice President Lyndon Johnson (behind Reuther); Roy Wilkins (NAACP). © Flip Schulke/CORBIS Selective exposure—the human tendency to seek out information sources that back one’s existing beliefs and to spurn sources that dispute them. 87897_ch07_ptg01_hr_211-234.indd 222 11/7/12 11:14 AM Copyright 2013 Cengage Learning. All Rights Reserved. May not be copied, scanned, or duplicated, in whole or in part. Due to electronic rights, some third party content may be suppressed from the eBook and/or eChapter(s). Editorial review has deemed that any suppressed content does not materially affect the overall learning experience. Cengage Learning reserves the right to remove additional content at any time if subsequent rights restrictions require it. CHAPteR 7 Public Opinion and Political Participation 223 # 109826 Cust: Cengage Learning / OH / Wadsworth Au: Bessette/Pitney Pg. No. 223 Title: American Government and Politics: Deliberation, Democracy and Citizenship Server: C / M / Y / K Short / Normal DESIGN SERVICES OF carlisle Publishing Services a promise that all men—yes, black men as well as white men—would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”56 Events deepened the movement’s emotional grip. In 1946, the lynching of black veterans laid bare the gap between racial reality and the goals of World War II.57 In the following decades, television audiences watched as civil rights demonstrators faced bloody mistreatment. And over several decades, a stream of books, official reports and congressional hearings detailed segregation’s corrosive effects. The logos, or logic, of the issue did not turn on narrow self-interest because the movement for black civil rights directly benefited only one-eighth of the population. Supporters of civil rights instead spoke of injustice and the harm it did to America’s global image.58 As a result, Americans deliberated about race and gradually concluded that the law should stop discrimination, and because of the new laws, whites had more contact with other racial groups in school and on the job. Although racial conflict did not disappear, daily life socialized Americans, especially the young, to regard official segregation as a thing of the past. OPINIONS INTO ACTION MAJOR ISSUE • How does participation foster deliberation? As we noted at the start of this chapter, political participation consists of activities aiming to shape the choice of leaders and policies. Thoughts and deeds have a close connection. When Americans take part in politics, they are turning their opinions into action. Indeed, action is the reason that we study opinion in the first place: it would be pointless to measure beliefs if citizens never acted on them. At the same time, we cite opinion to explain what people do in the political world; and to a large extent, we use the same kind of instrument—survey research—to find out what citizens think and how they act. Forms of Participation Talk is one simple and direct method of political participation.59 In 2008, 45% said that they had talked to others in an effort to influence their vote, a figure that had ranged from a low of 15% in 1974 to a high of 48% in 2004.60 Other forms of participation attract fewer Americans: • Attended a political meeting, 5%–9% • Worked for a party or a candidate, 2%–7% • Gave money to help a campaign, 4%–16% Displaying campaign paraphernalia is a way of expressing political beliefs and inviting political conversation. It also builds morale. Voters are likely to feel better about supporting a candidate if they see that candidate’s name on lapels, backpacks, and bumpers. Between 1956 and 1972, the percentage saying that they had worn a button or put a bumper sticker on their car fluctuated between 9% and 21%. Between 1974 and 2000, the figure fluctuated between 5% and 11%. In 2004, it jumped back to 21%. This change reflected the passions of that campaign. The 2008 election highlighted newer forms of participation. Three-quarters of Internet users went From an emotional standpoint, the hardest job in a campaign is cleaning up the signs after a defeat. Christiana Dominguez, who took a semester off from law school to work in the Kerry campaign in 2004, here faces the day after in the Philadelphia headquarters. AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian 87897_ch07_ptg01_hr_211-234.indd 223 11/7/12 11:14 AM Copyright 2013 Cengage Learning. All Rights Reserved. May not be copied, scanned, or duplicated, in whole or in part. Due to electronic rights, some third party content may be suppressed from the eBook and/or eChapter(s). Editorial review has deemed that any suppressed content does not materially affect the overall learning experience. Cengage Learning reserves the right to remove additional content at any time if subsequent rights restrictions require it. 224 CHAPteR 7 Public Opinion and Political Participation # 109826 Cust: Cengage Learning / OH / Wadsworth Au: Bessette/Pitney Pg. No. 224 Title: American Government and Politics: Deliberation, Democracy and Citizenship Server: C / M / Y / K Short / Normal DESIGN SERVICES OF carlisle Publishing Services online to take part in or learn about the campaign. This figure encompassed just over half of American adults, making 2008 the first time that a majority had used the Internet to connect to the electoral process. Some 38% of Internet users talked about politics online, and 59% used tools such as Twitter or e-mail to send or receive political messages.61 College students, who typically have easy access to the Internet and spend much of their time with computers, were especially likely to engage in online participation (see Table 7-1). The Obama campaign made skillful use of such tools to gather contributions, recruit volunteers, and get voters to the polls. Thousands of college students joined the Facebook group “Students for Barack Obama” along with local Facebook chapters. The campaign set up profiles on other general sites such as MySpace and on more focused sites such as AsianAve.com and BlackPlanet. com. In all, Obama had more than 2 million friends on social networking sites.62

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