Public Opinion: Mass vs. Elite Public Opinion & Presidential Approval Ratings

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  • Public Opinion:Mass vs. Elite Public Opinion&Presidential Approval Ratings

  • Differences in Public Opinion:Elites vs. Mass PublicElite Political BehaviorPeople who are deeply interested and involved in politicsHigh levels of political knowledgeWell structured ideologiesLiberal or conservative ideologies unite their positions on policy issuesResponse stability

  • Differences in Public Opinion:Elites vs. Mass PublicMass BehaviorLow levels of political knowledgeUnstable opinionsOver time, their responses to similar questions vary greatlyInconsistent opinionsIdeologies are not grounded in consistent issue positions

  • Explaining Political Behavior of MassesLow levels of political knowledge can be attributed to several factors:Education tied to political knowledgeHigh information costsGathering, processing, and storing information is neither effortless nor freeOther more interesting things to do with your timeOther things to do, read, watch

  • How can information costs be reduced?Issue publicsDeflects information costs by limiting the amount of information needed to form opinionsCuesElite CuesPartisan CuesFinding more enjoyable means for obtaining political informationSoft news OReilly Factor, Crossfire, etc.Late-night Letterman, Leno, Conan, Daily Show

  • How are opinions formed?Political SocializationDefinition: The process through which individuals acquire their orientations towards the political worldPersonal experienceOpinions are often influenced by life experiences

  • Why is public opinion important?Helps political candidates and politicians identify the most important concerns among the publicIssues to run onPolicies to passDrawbacksEncourages short-term solutions over long-term solutionsCan be easily manipulatedIntentionally (by elites and media)Unintentionally (by salient events)

  • Presidential Approval Ratings andThe Rally Round the Flag Effect

  • Presidential ApprovalToday, presidential approval is gauged in very regular intervalsDo you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president? In addition to this general assessment of presidential job performance, polling companies also ask a variety of more specific questions on the economy, foreign affairs, taxes, etc.

  • Presidential ApprovalA Presidents public approval ratings will give him leverage:In WashingtonIncreases bargaining abilityIncreases his ability to go publicSome believe that it increases his success rate on roll-call votes in CongressNationallyCan serve as an early barometer for upcoming elections

  • Determinants of Presidential Approval RatingBest predictor:Consumer expectationsWhat leads to deviations from this?Honeymoon effectsPresidents enjoy higher levels of approval at the beginning of a termRally round the flag effectPresidents get a large bump in approval during times of national crisis

  • Rally EventsWhat defines a rally event? International eventEvent directly involves the United States and particularly the presidentSpecific, dramatic, and sharply focusedSalient to the publicThese events confront the nation as a wholeGain enormous public event and attention

  • Why do people rally around the flag?People will increase their support for the president (at least in the short-run) because he is the symbol of the country and the primary focus during times of crisisPeople do not want to hurt nations chance at success by opposing the president

  • George H.W. Bush

  • George W. Bush


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