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.

3.     Media

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

                            B.            Demographics

1.     Education

2.     Income

3.     Region

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

The Zogby Polling Group

The Gallup Poll   


I)      Morris Fiorina – Stanford University Hoover Institute Culture War: The Myth of a Polarized America “In the past few years there have been increasing indications that [politicians] are beginning to believe in the distorted picture of American politics that they have helped to paint.  This development threatens to make the distorted picture a self fulfilling prophesy as a polarized political class abandons any effort to reach out to the great middle of the country.”         Fiorina

II)   Why does the myth exist?

A)   Misinterpretation of election returns

B)   Lack of hard examination of polling data

C)   Sstemic and self serving misrepresentation by issue activists

D)   Selective coverage by an uncritical media more concerned with news than getting the story right.

III)The Role of Party Activists

·        Political Elites tend to be more politically extreme than the average member of the party.

·        Candidates who wish to win primaries must appeal to these party activists and be more ideological.

·        Voters, given two ideologically extreme candidates must choose one even though they themselves are more moderate.

·        Often voters decide to sit out the election because they see neither candidate as acceptable.


·        “… Because purist hold their views more intensely than ordinary people. Their operating style differs from most people.  They are completely certain of their views:  They are right and their opponents are wrong.  Moreover, their opponents are not just misguided or misinformed, but corrupt, stupid, evil, or all three.  There can be no compromise because truth does not compromise with error.  Their issues are too serious to permit any levity to enter the discussion.  Angry attacks substitute for reasoned discussions.”    Fiorina