Nicholson AP Government
September 16th and 17th
1. President Obama's National Address on Syria
1. What is the purpose of the speech
2. What is the objective of the strike in Syria
3. Why is it necessary for the U.S. to take action?
2. Formation of Public Opinion
Complete each box with a brief explanation
Step 1: A political event takes place.
Step 2: The Media reports on the event. Media play an important role in public opinion formation. Without reporting by the media, political events would depend on eye witnesses and word of mouth communication. How the media report on an event, and whether they report the event at all, becomes critically important. Politically speaking, events that are not reported or noticed by the public never happened. Much of what takes place in government and politics is not reported and does not enter the consciousness of the general public. Thus it has no practical bearing on the formation of public opinion.
Step 3: Individuals respond to the event and the reporting based on their prior political socialization and knowledge. It should further be noted that Two individuals may respond to the same event in entirely different ways: one may put a conservative and the other a liberal spin on the event.
Step 4: Peer groups and other social groupings form opinions on the event. The general public, and the various publics (social groupings) out of which it is formed, respond to events that are brought to their attention in terms of their prior socialization, group memberships, and political knowledge. Individuals are not a kind of Lockean tabula rasa, a clean slate. How they respond to events depends on their prior political education.
Step 5: Public opinion polls measure national public opinion about an event. Elections can be viewed as a vast public opinion poll.
Public Opinion has been formed.
3. Watch the Video on how to read a Poll
-public opinion polls
The scientific measuring public opinion is a fairly recent phenomenon. While straw polling dates back to the early 1820s, its practice was hardly scientific and remained fairly localized in scope. The first real attempt at national polling came from the Literary Digest, who in 1916 began to send out postcards to its readers to their opinions. But this venture was hardly scientific and its results were quite skewed, leading to misleading conclusions. In 1936, Literary Digest predicted, based on its returned postcards, President Franklin Roosevelt would lose in a landslide to his Republic opponent, Alf Landon. The complete opposite happened. This polling fiasco reinforced the need for a more scientific approach to polling if public opinion was to be gauged accurately.
George Gallup was engaged also during the Great Depression, and he was devising better, more accurate methods of polling. They were, of course, also flawed and helped lead to the 1948 election disaster that predicted, using quota sampling, Thomas Dewey had defeated President Harry Truman. Again, the polls were wrong. But Gallup would soon learn from his mistakes and help develop more scientifically accurate method of polling through random sampling. Today, using many of Gallup's refined methods, over 1,000 polling organizations attempt to measure everything from television shows to musical tastes to preferences in soft drinks. Some 200 organizations are dedicated to understanding America's political preferences.
4. Understanding Polls
1. Historically, why and how was the Literary Digest poll of 1936 and the Gallup Poll of 1948 flawed? What lessons about polling were learned from these two polling mistakes?
2. In a poll, why must there be a clear and accurate link between sample and population?
3. What problems can be created by public opinion polls?
4. What are exit polls?
5. Why do most polls today rely primarily upon phone banks?
6. Could instantaneous polls via the Internet help or hinder American politics? Why?
7. What is meant by a poll's "sampling error"?
*Remember that to be valid and reliable, polls must be scientific. This means that the sample taken must be both randomized and representative of the overall population being focused on. The sample should be large (1,000 to 2,000 people) and thus the margin of error small (typically between 2 and 5%).
5. Political Culture
6. Political Socialization
7. With time left...
Watch the following video and have answers to discussion questions.
Chapter 9 reading and study guide