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Federal Government 2305Unit 10 Lecture Notes

Unit 10-- Public Opinion

Issue: Does public opinion have any influence on American government? Public Opinion: The views of a majority of the American public on a given issue. Political Culture: The political beliefs, values, opinions, practices, and traditions of a group or nation of people. In the ideal world in a democracy, everyones opinion counts and our opinions matter to politicians and government. In the real world, even in a democracy, not everyones opinion counts or receives the same consideration by government and politicians. Who you are often determines whether your opinion counts and how much weight it carries. The Hierarchy of Public Opinion divides the American public into five groups, and depending on what group a person falls into, their opinion may or may not count and carry weight with government officials and politicians. Hierarchy of Public Opinion 1. Government Leaders: The opinions of governmental leaders, both elected and appointed, carry the most weight as they consult with and influence each other on most decisions made. 2. Elite: These are national opinion setters, individuals and families who often get media attention when they speak out. Because they get the attention of the media and because of WHO they are and WHAT they have accomplished, and BECAUSE they are often admired, we listen to them and are influenced by their opinions. Thus, they can influence government. These are NOT people in government, but often they include they following: Former officeholders and governmental leadersHenry Kissinger, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Nancy Reagan, George Bush (the dad), etc. Wealthy individuals and families (Kennedys, Rockefellers, Ross Perot) Leaders in the business world, academia (Lee Iacoca) leaders of interest groups or organizations (Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Ralph Nader, Jesse Jackson) Entertainers, athletes, etc.because of their fame & popularity (Streisand, Robert Redford, Charlton Heston, Oprah Winfrey, etc.) 3. Attentive Public:


Federal Government 2305Unit 10 Lecture Notes These are often the educated, well-informed, critical audience community leaders and local political activists. When they speak out, people listen and are influenced by what they say because they recognized they are more informed and knowledgeable. They are influential because they influence the opinions of people around them. 4. Attention Groups: Groups that are mobilized into action by a single issue or two Examples include: Gun owners Pro-lifers Environmentalists Civil rights activists Their opinion carries weight on those few issues that galvanize them into action. Then, government listens to them and their opinions. 5. Mass Public: This is the majority of the population, 60%+, for whom politics and government has low relevancy or importance. They rarely vote, participate, get involved, contribute money, etc. Their very lack of political participation means their opinions dont carry much weight with government and politicians. Political Socialization- The process by which a person acquires his/her political beliefs, opinions, attitudes. Six agents of Political Socialization: 1. Parents/Family 1. Your political party identification and loyalty. If you are split, you are more likely to take on the mothers party. (Republican, Democrat, Independent) 2. Political Philosophy-liberal or conservative or moderate 3. If you are an activist and participate, then your parents more than likely were also. If they didnt vote, you are more likely to be an apathetic nonparticipant. 4. Image of the United States. Its the best country in the world and you are lucky to be an American be a good citizen; pay your taxes, obey the law, fight for your country. Change: Less parental influence today. Due to divorces, mobility, more apathy, and we have more leisure time we spend it with our peers. 2. Church Protestant, Catholic, and Jews


Federal Government 2305Unit 10 Lecture Notes Jews are the most liberal and Democratic Protestants are the most conservative and Republican Catholics more moderate. 60% Democrats, 40 % Republicans Will have the most impact on moral-political issues. Ex: Gay rights, abortion, pornography, and organized prayer in the schools, sexual education, drinking, creationism and evolution. Change: Less influence today because church attendance is down significantly. Also the secularism of American society. separation of church & state. In early United States -- Church was the hub of community social life and the minister was usually the most educated person in the entire community. we put him on a pedestal -- & people didnt easily disagree with their minister 3. School/Education 1. Children taught our history as heroic in grade school 2. Children taught patriotism early on -- Pledge of allegiance in grade school 3. Citizenship training taught about the political system in junior high and high school. 4. Taught a balance of views and actual history in college. mistakes our nation has made. 5. Litt study. Edgar Litt a political scientist and his theory. Rationalized that students were socialized differently depending upon the type of schools they attended politically. 1. Upper Middle Class Suburban (White Collar) (Permian.) Encouraged to vote Encouraged to become involved politically Encouraged to question the system. 2. Lower Middle Class (blue-collar) (Odessa High.) Encouraged to vote and not much else 3. Inner City Poor (Non White School) (Ector High.) Not encouraged to become involved in the political system. Instructed to fight for their country and obey the laws Change: Effects of education on political socialization have increased. The more someone is educated the more those persons become involved in politics and the more influence their education has on them. 4. Peers Friends, Co-workers, acquaintances, organizations we belong to. 1. Most have your same views and reinforce your political views. 2. Strong emphasis to conforming to group beliefs. 3. Strongest pull from conforming in teen and high school years. Change:


Federal Government 2305Unit 10 Lecture Notes The effect has increased. More leisure time and availability of those friends, autos, city living. 5. The Media 1. Newspapers- less convenient and more time consuming. More biased and one-sided. Odessa America is predominantly conservative. Also Newspapers are more vulnerable to public opinion. most cities have only one news paper today lack of choice 2. Newsmagazines- Time, Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report. Newsmagazines middle of the road on views and appeal to a national audience. Greater cost and time involved in sitting and reading one. News is dated by the time magazine reaches you. Best in-depth best coverage of each story. Smallest Audience. 3. Radio-Was once more effective and popular. Talk Radio is much more conservative. News is very brief & concise. Not much indepth reporting, unless its a 24-hour talk radio station. 4. Television- 2/3rds of us rely on television as their major source and 50% rely on it as our only source. Easy, convenient and regularly scheduled. Most up to date. Pictures and film footage make it more entertaining and makes a stronger emotional impact. However it has time constraints, because of commercials so some stories not covered. Twenty-six minutes of actual airtime. Television can only cover the most important stories. Television airs stories with good film footage and stories that will bring in more viewers. FCC regulates television and radio broadcast. We use to have a fairness doctrine (equal time for opposing viewpoints) Ended as a result of cable television. Also we now have satellite technology to report live and up to the second reporting from all parts of the world. 5. Internet Get news anytime you want, at your fingertips, when you want it. Danger on the Internet is that it is not always accurate. Must take care to receive news from reputable or consistent sources. Journalistic standards are not always present. Change: Increased influence of media, especially TV. 6. Generational Events


Federal Government 2305Unit 10 Lecture Notes 1930s Great Depression FDR Frugal people saving for a rainy day. Created good loyal Democrats because of President -- FDR 1940s WWII FDR Created very patriotic Democrats -- FDR 1960s Kennedy assassination, civil rights revolution and the beginning of the Vietnam War. Created liberal generation, very Democratic and distrustful of government. 1970s Nixon Vietnam war escalates & Watergate scandal created liberal Democrats but distrustful of government. More cynical 1980s Reagan Became conservative and more Republican. (Because of popularity of Republican President Reagan; 80s children were of the more liberal 60s parents.) 1990s Clinton Democratic President and counterbalancing his influence there is a Republican Congress. Which will be more influential?? The verdict is still out. 2000+--first decade- 9/11the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 are probably the key generational event so far in the first decade of the 21st century. Certainly, that event has changed our views of President George W. Bush and our opinions on defense, security, civil liberties, and the U.S. involvement in world affairs.