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Mass Media

What is Public Opinion?

Complex collection of the opinions of many
different people (on public Affairs)
Misconceptions of Public Opinion:
Belief all or most people have the same view
The public favors this or that

Very few matters all or most of the People

agree on
Must involve something of general concern
and a significant portion of the people

Different Publics
Believe it or not there
are different Publics
Each issues has a
National health care;
President is doing an
excellent/terrible job;
Capital punishment
should be abolished

Belong to more than one

Different Publics:
Not many Issues
capture the attention
of ALL Americans
Name one????

Public Opinion
includes ONLY those
views related to
Politics, public issues,
making public policy

Other Factors

Family And Education

Your not born with
your values
Political Opinions are

From mom and dad

Experiences and

Other Factors
Weight of each factor
that influences public
opinion depends on
the issue

Mass Media
Peer groups
Opinion leaders
Historic events

Other Factors:
Means of communication
that reach large, widely
dispersed audiences
98% households = 1 T.V.
Turned on for 7 hours a

Peer Groups
People who you talk too
Reinforces what a person
has already come to

Other Factors:

Opinion Leaders
A person who has unusually
strong influence on the views
of others (draw ideas and
Hold public office

Historical Events
Great Depression ( role of
60s and 70s traumatic
events; resignation of Nixon
Evaluated trustworthiness of

Measuring Public Opinion

Measuring Public Opinion

Editorial comments in the Press
Public Officials

Measuring Public Opinion

Results are indicator of Public Opinion?
Peoples approval/rejection
Parties claim a mandate
Refers to the instructions or commands a constituency
gives its elected officials

Elections are, at best, only useful indicators of

public opinion.
Represents only a GENERAL directions
parties should take

Measuring Public Opinion

Interest Groups:
Private organizations whose members share
certain views and objectives and work to
shape making and the content of public policy

The Media
mirrors or molders
Reflect only the views of the vocal majority

Measuring Public Opinion

Personal Contacts
read the publics mind
voice of the people?
Contacts with the public

Poll- the Best Measure

Straw vote is a method of polling that
seeks to read the publics mind simply
by asking the same question of a large
number of people.
The straw-vote technique is highly
unreliable, however.

Poll- the Best Measure

Scientific Polling
Serious efforts to take the publics pulse
on a scientific basis date from the 1930s.
There are now more than 1,000 national
and regional polling organizations in this
country, with at least 200 of these polling
political preferences.

The Polling Process

Five things pollsters must do
Define the universe to be surveyed
Construct a sample
Prepare valid questions
Select and control how the poll will be taken
Analyze and report their findins to the public

Polling Process
Defining the Universe
Whole population the poll aims to measure
Every high school student in Georgia
Atlanta voters

Constructing a Sample
A representative slice of the total universe
Random samples
1500 people

Quota sample
Sample deliberately constructed to reflect several of the
major characteristics of a given universe

Polling Process
Preparing Valid Questions
Wording can affect the reliability of any poll
Should local taxes be reduced?
Should the citys police force be increased to
fight rising tide of crime in our community?
Ask loaded questions, emotionally charged
words, terms that are difficult to understand

Polling Process
Telephone: calls are placed randomly chosen
area codes around the nation
Less labor intensive/less expensive
Tone of voice
Emphasis given to certain words
Responses are given to please the pollster

Polling Process
Analyze and Report findings
Collect huge amounts of raw data
Other election hardware
Tabulate and interpret data; draw conclusions;
report findings

Evaluating Polls
Most national and regional polls are fairly
reliable. (they are far from perfect.)
Potential problems with polls
Inability to measure the intensity, stability, and
relevance of the opinions they report.
polls and pollsters sometimes shape the
opinions they are supposed to measure.

Limits on the Impact of

Public Opinion
Public opinion is the major, but by no
means the only, influence on public policy
in this country.
American political system is designed to
protect minority interests against the
excesses of majority views and actions.
Polls are not elections, nor are they
substitutes for elections.

The Role of Mass Media

Means of communication; transmits some
kind of information
Four Major Kinds in US


Internet is increasing more important every

year.replacing newspapers

The Role of Mass Media

Presents people with
political information
Directly in news
Less direct: radio,
television, newspaper
stories, magazine

Role of Mass Media

Replaced Newspapers as the principal source
of political information
Others: CNN, PBS, etc

Freedom of Press
# of papers continues to Decline with rise of

Role of Mass Media

1930s Major entertainment and political
information center
President F. Roosevelt: 1st to use radio
20 hours of radio a week
Talk Radio
Political commentaries

Role of Mass Media

12,000 published in
U.S. today
Time, Newsweek, U.S.
News and World

The Media and Politics

Public Agenda
Societal problems that the nations political
leaders and the general public agree need
government attention
Focus public on a particular issue
Dont tell you what to think but what to think
Political leaders pay close attention to Media

Electoral Politics
Make candidates less dependent on party
Appeal directly to the people
Create their own image
Take no more than a minute or two of air time
Show people doing something interesting and exciting
Sound Bites: snappy reports that can be aired 30-45