Public Opinion

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Public
 Opinion
 and
 Political
 Socialization
 
 
  Public
 Opinion-­‐
 The
 collected
 attitudes
 of
 citizens
 concerning
 a
 given
 issue
 or
  question.
 
  One
 issue
 in
 America
 that
 stirs
 differences
 in
 public
 opinion
 is
 the
 death
 penalty.
  Does
 the
 death
 penalty
 deter
 people
 from
 killing?
 Some
 think
 it
 does,
 some
 think
 it
  doesn’t.
 The
 history
 of
 public
 thought
 on
 the
 death
 penalty
 has
 revealed
 5
  characteristics
 of
 public
 opinion.
 
  1. The
 public’s
 attitudes
 toward
 a
 given
 governmental
 policy
 can
 vary
 over
  time,
 often
 dramatically.
 (People
 tend
 to
 favor
 capital
 punishment
 in
  times
 of
 war,
 or
 when
 security
 is
 threatened.)
  2. Public
 opinion
 places
 boundaries
 on
 allowable
 types
 of
 public
 policy.
  (Stoning
 criminals
 is
 not
 acceptable
 in
 America,
 but
 lethal
 injection
 is.)
  3. If
 asked
 by
 pollsters,
 citizens
 are
 willing
 to
 register
 opinions
 on
 matters
  outside
 their
 expertise.
 (Idea
 that
 lethal
 injection
 is
 more
 humane.)
  4. Governments
 tend
 to
 respond
 to
 public
 opinion.
  5. The
 government
 sometimes
 does
 not
 do
 what
 people
 want.
 (There
 were
  only
 60
 executions
 in
 2005,
 yet
 there
 were
 over
 16,
 000
 murders.)
 
  The
 Distribution
 of
 Public
 Opinion:
 People
 rarely
 think
 alike.
 As
 such,
  governments
 must
 analyze
 the
 shape
 and
 the
 stability
 of
 that
 distribution.
 The
  shape
 of
 the
 opinion
 distribution
 depicts
 three
 patterns
 of
 distribution.
 
  1. Skewed
 distribution-­‐an
 asymmetrical
 but
 generally
 bell
 shaped
  distribution
 of
 opinions;
 its
 mode,
 or
 most
 frequent
 response,
 lies
 off
 to
  one
 side.
 
  2. Bimodal
 distribution-­‐
 a
 distribution
 of
 opinions
 that
 shows
 2
 responses
  being
 chosen
 about
 as
 frequently
 as
 each
 other.
 (No
 middle
 ground…gay
  marriage
 is
 a
 good
 example.)
  3. Normal
 distribution-­‐a
 symmetrical
 bell
 shaped
 distribution
 of
 opinions
  centered
 on
 a
 single
 mode,
 or
 most
 frequent
 response.
 (The
 mode
 is
 the
  moderate…dead
 in
 the
 center.)
 
  A
 stable
 distribution
 is
 a
 distribution
 that
 changes
 little
 over
 time.
 
  Political
 Socialization-­‐The
 complex
 process(s)
 by
 which
 people
 acquire
 their
  political
 values.
  Obviously,
 the
 paths
 to
 political
 awareness,
 knowledge,
 and
 values
 vary
 from
 person
  to
 person;
 however,
 most
 people
 are
 exposed
 to
 the
 same
 agents
 of
 socialization,
  especially
 from
 childhood
 to
 young
 adulthood:
 family,
 school,
 community,
 peers,
  and,
 of
 course,
 the
 media.
 
 

Agents
 of
 Early
 Socialization:
 Like
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