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Public Opinion in the 21st Century: Let the People Speak? 1st Edition

Russell Brooker, Todd Schaefer

  • Published
  • 448 Pages


This text provides a comprehensive and concise introduction to the study of public opinion. A unifying theme explains public opinion as a communication between the constituency and the government. Public Opinion in the 21st Century also evaluates the quality of public beliefs and describes how Americans relate their opinions to political leaders, answering important questions such as, Whose voices are heard? To what effect? In keeping with the framework of the New Directions series, this text also includes a strong active learning focus. Each Part has at least one Interactive Learning Exercise such as simulations, data analysis activities, and group research assignments.

Russell Brooker, Alverno College

Todd Schaefer, Central Washington University

Note: Each chapter includes a Conclusion, Suggested Reading, and Notes.
I. Introduction
1. A Decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind
What is Public Opinion?
Public Opinion in Practice
The Approach of this Book
The People Speak: Public Opinion and the Democratic Dialogue
Public Opinion and the Democratic Dilemma
Recent Views on the Role of Public Opinion
2. Measuring Public Opinion: Survey Research
Types of Surveys
Cross-Sectional Surveys versus Panel Studies
The Population and the Sample
Probability Sampling and Randomness
How Samples Can Be Biased
Questions and the Questionnaire
Sampling Error and Other Errors
Advantages and Disadvantages of Survey Research
Two Variants of Survey Research
Who Conducts Public Opinion Research?
A Crisis in Survey Research?
Interactive Learning Exercise: Gathering Survey Research Data
3. Measuring Public Opinion: Other Methods
Other Quantitative Methods
Qualitative Methods
Informal Ways to Measure Public Opinion
Interactive Learning Exercise: Analysis of Community Opinion
II. The Context of Public Opinion
4. Organizing Public Opinion
Party identification
Self-Placement on the Liberal-Conservative Continuum
The Relationship Between Party Identification and Ideology
Interactive Learning Exercise: Classifying Students Along the Liberal-Conservative Continuum
5. Sources of Public Opinion: Political Socialization
The Significance of Political Socialization
The Socialization Process
Agents of Socialization
Adult Socialization
6. The Mass Media and Public Opinion
The Importance of the Media to the Public and Democracy
Media Impact on Public Opinion: How Great?
Media in the Democratic Dialogue: Covering Public Opinion
The Democratic Dilemma and the Relationship Between the Media and the Public
III. Voices of the People: Public Opinions on Political Matters
7. Historical Development of Political Issues
The Four Issue Domains
Why Opinions Change
8. Public Opinion Today
Income: Economic and Social Welfare Issues
Gender and the Gender Gap
Race and Racial Issues
Is There a "Principle-Implementation Gap" Among Whites?
The Issue Domains Today and the American Party System
Interactive Learning Exercise: Analyzing Public Opinion
IV. The People Speak: Expressing Public Opinion in Practice
9. Speaking Up: The People Tell the Government What They Think
Types of Political Engagement and Participation
Political Engagement and Participation by Groups
Participants'' Opinions versus Nonparticipants'' Opinions
Interactive Learning Exercise: Political Socialization and Political Participation
10. The Government Listens: Taking the Pulse of the People
The History of Polling
Uses of Political Polling and Focus Groups
Interactive Learning Exercise: Analysis of Opinions on Drunk Driving
V. Listening to the People? Government Responsiveness to Public Opinion
11. Should Government Listen? The Democratic Dilemma
The Political Capacity of the Public
The Case Against the Public (or the Incompetent Public)
The Rebuttal: The Rational Public
Public Support for Democracy
Interactive Learning Exercise: Test Your Political Knowledge
12. Does the Government Listen? The Democratic Dialogue
The Relationship Between Public Opinion and Public Policy
Does the Government Listen to the People? Three Competing Views
13. The "New Referendum:" Presidential Approval
Public Opinion and Presidential Performance
Analyzing Presidential Approval
The Politics of Public Support
Interactive Learning Exercise: Using Presidential Approval to Apply What You''ve Learned
VI. Conclusion
14. Public Opinion and American Politics at the Dawn of the Twenty-First Century
Revisiting the Democratic Dilemma
Distortions in the People''s Voice
The People''s Voice Grows