Polling & Public Opinion

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Polling & Public Opinion. http:// www.gallup.com/poll/election.aspx http:// elections.nytimes.com/2008/results/president/exit-polls.html. Measuring public opinion. Person to Person Quick and cheap but can close off important information - PowerPoint PPT Presentation



Polling & Public Opinionhttp://www.gallup.com/poll/election.aspx


Measuring public opinion Person to Person Quick and cheap but can close off important informationAdvisors, friends and inner circles can be isolated or wrongSelective Polling Informally interviewed normal citizens from different religions /occupations/ regionsBellwether districts A district that indicates where a group is headingcan be accurate but doesnt tell us why limited to electionsCurrent Bellwethers in AmericaNevada 96.0% Accurate since 1912, except 1976 election (slight Rep)Where was the debate last night?Ohio 93.1% Accurate since 1896, except 1944 & 1960 (slight Rep)

Missouri 92.6% Accurate since 1904, except 1956 & 2008 (neutral)

Measuring public opinionSurveys (Clinton ushers in the era)Quota SamplingLook for # of respondents commensurate with demographics of electorate most common method used by commercial polls. i.e.- white, males, age 45-60

Probability SamplingEvery individual has an equal chance of being polled systematic (every ninth name from a list), random (choosing names at random), or area (areas are broken into homogenous areas that are completely polled) samplingGeneral ProblemsHaphazard sampling (not selecting a representative or random sample)Poor questions (welfare or assistance for the poor; preferential hiring or affirmative action)Choice Words by Richard Morin offers other examples (should Clinton fight the charges in the Senate (59 percent no) or remain in office and face trial in the Senate (43 percent) why? The term fightA perceived liberal bias of polls (anti-gay rights initiatives can produce false negatives )Push Polling (loaded question aimed at getting desired response and shape the respondents perceptions)Limits to assessing public opinions with pollsBand Wagon Effect People support probable winnerMay be offset by the Underdog Effect- people pull for underdog Illusions of Central Tendency politicians come to believe it is a moderately held issue (may not campaign on it) Prescribed questions might not reflect strongly held, but conflicting values- can come out as a moderate if the responses are it depends or dont know (question: should abortion be banned? but what if the person strongly believes it should be illegal but also strongly believes that there should be an exception for rape or incest)

Illusions of Saliency Politicians come to face trivial issuesPolling itself may create interest in topic- people rarely say they have no opinion on topic (21 percent said they supported the Monetary Control Bill, 25 percent were against it)News stories then report this interest on the issue, which in turn interests other respondents, and thus the polls clear own saliency

Polls can be Self fulfilling when it comes to candidates as wellHorse-race journalism Who has the lead early when people are operating off incomplete impressions polls are reported and frontrunners are named those frontrunners gain more campaign contributions =

So does this mean that polls are bad? Does it force cloture on debate? Will legislators become mere rubber stamps of poll data

No, says George Gallup in Polling the PublicPolling provides info on what his constituents want not what a vocal minority or what special interest group wantsPolls are accurate in determining the intent of the electorate No cloture on debate because opinions are subject to change No rubber stamp because polls cannot discern technical aspects of law


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