POLITICAL SOCIALIZATION AND PUBLIC OPINION
I. Political Socialization: process through which individuals become aware of politics and form political values.
A. Primary and Structuring Principles what is learned first is learned best and what is learned first structures later learning.
B. Agents of Political Socialization
1. Family – until adolescence most agree with parents
2. School - primary grades - indoctrination later grades may include a questioning of values.
4. Peers and Community
5. General Life experiences
II. Public Opinion : The aggregate of individual attitudes or beliefs shared by some portion of the adult population.
III. Factors Influencing Political Opinions: A person’s opinion is the result of four influencing factors:
A. Political Socialization and resulting ideology
4. Ethnicity –
a. old : Polish, Italian, German, Irish
b. new: African American, Asian, Hispanic
5. Religion –
a. Old: Protestants more conservative than Catholics, who are more conservative than Jews
b. New : Conservative/Liberal split within denominations
C. Self Interest – How will the opinion benefit the person?
D. Political Knowledge and Information – political sophistication
IV. Components of Political Opinions: Once a person has formed a political opinion, that opinion will have four components.
A. Direction - Pro or con
B. Degree - strongly or mildly for or against
C. Salience - how it affects that person's life directly (For example, halting old growth logging is going to have more salience for a mill worker than it will for a stock broker, even though both might have strong opinions about the issue.)
D. Intensity - degree of commitment. (What is the person willing to do as a result. Will they vote according to a candidate’s stand on the issue, will the write letters, protest, get arrested?)
V. Political Polls: Public opinion is usually assessed through polls.
A. Early Polling was unscientific and not followed closely
1. More accurate polling techniques were developed in the 1930’s – still not foolproof.
B. Sampling techniques –
1. A small random sample that is representative of the group is it measuring.
2. Statistical analysis to determine relevance of differences.
3. Accurate polls usually cite margin of error
VI. Polls can be inaccurate due to:
A. Non representative samples – a presidential poll which is 60% Republican or a poll which draws conclusions for all CR students when only 10 responded to a questionnaire.
B. The phrasing of the questions – Question: Do you favor Candidate A’s tax plan, which gives most of it’s benefit to rich people or Candidate B’s tax plan, which gives more to real Americans like you and me?
C. Push Polls – give negative information (often inaccurate) about the opposing candidate then ask if they will support that candidate.
D. The sequence of the questions – a long string of questions regarding the respondent’s support for unpopular issues supported by the president then asking if the respondent supports the re-election of that president.
The Polling Report – a collection of polling data on multiple subjects