* Your assessment is very important for improving the work of artificial intelligence, which forms the content of this project
Chapter 6 Public Opinion and Political Participation Sources of Public Opinion • ‘Political socialization’ refers to the factors that shape our political opinions. These include financial interest, family, friends, education, gender, race, religion, and major life events. • Party identification has become the most reliable predictor of public opinion in recent years. • Self-interest and political elites also influence political attitudes. • How issues are framed can shift individual and collective views. • Dramatic events, especially wars, also have a powerful role in shaping our opinions. Measuring Public Opinion • Scientific surveys have come a long way since their origins in 1936. Professionals now design well-specified polls that capture popular views with a high degree of accuracy. • Poll results can affect public opinion. • Sampling errors, response bias, and other potential flaws inevitably confer a measure of uncertainty on any survey. Public Opinion in a Democracy • Some Americans have viewed public opinion as an unreliable, even dangerous, guide to government policy making, based in part on voter ignorance. • Others argue that, in practice, a “rational public” is the best source of democratic decision making. • One way to combine these clashing views is to focus not on what individuals know about politics but on how the many different popular views add up to a “wisdom of crowds.” • If public opinion is to guide politics, three conditions must be met: The public must know what it wants; its views must be effectively communicated; and leaders must pay attention. • Even strong public opinion may not be specific enough to offer policy guidance. • United States government officials devote more resources to polling operations than top officials in other nations. • All government officials constantly have to weigh doing what they think is best against doing what the public desires. Popular views can help set governing agendas. Traditional Participation • Traditional Participation involves engaging politics through formal government channels. Voting is the most familiar form of traditional political participation. • Americans participate in politics year round. One in five contacts a public official in the course of a year. • Civic voluntarism is a form of engagement with public life that operates outside of government – but enhances democracy. • Direct Action seeks change by going outside the formal channels of government. It has a long legacy in the United States that goes back to the nation’s founding and includes some of the nation’s great reform movements. Why People Get Involved? • Participating in politics and government is influenced both by personal factors: background characteristics such as income and education; family and friends; political mobilization; and receiving government benefits from programs that treat beneficiaries with respect (like Social Security). • Americans participate in political life at very different rates. A few engage passionately, a larger number are moderately engaged, and the majority of us are only sporadically involved. This contributes to the appearance of high and low participation in the United States. • Political mobilization is also influence by the larger social and historical context. What Discourages Political Participation? • Participation in civic life tends to vary by age, income level, and education. • Several other factors have fueled a decline in Americans’ political participation in recent years. These include alienation, barriers to participation, complacency, and shifting mobilization patterns.