A crowd of reporters surrounds Donald Trump as he arrives in Detroit for a debate among Republican presidential candidates. Why are the debates leading up to the presidential primary elections important?Explain


Public Opinion, Political Socialization, and the Media

Introduction

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A crowd of reporters surrounds Donald Trump as he arrives in Detroit for a debate among Republican presidential candidates. Why are the debates leading up to the presidential primary elections important?

The six Learning Outcomes (LOs) below are designed to help improve your understanding of this chapter. After reading this chapter, you should be able to:

LO1 Define public opinion, consensus, and divided opinion, and discuss major sources of political socialization, including the family, the schools, the media, and political events.

LO2 Identify the effects of various influences on opinion, including education, income, religion, race/ethnicity, gender, and geography.

LO3 Describe the characteristics of a scientific opinion poll, and list some of the problems pollsters face in obtaining accurate results.

LO4 Consider the effect that public opinion may have on the political process.

LO5 Describe the different types of media and the changing roles they play in American society.

LO6 Summarize the impact of the media on political campaigns, and consider the issue of political bias in the media.

Public Opinion and Political Socialization

LO1:Define public opinion, consensus, and divided opinion, and discuss major sources of political socialization, including the family, the schools, the media, and political events.

There is no single public opinion, because there are many different “publics.” In a nation of 325 million people, there may be innumerable gradations of opinion on an issue. What we do is describe the distribution of opinions about a particular question. Thus, we define public opinion as the aggregate of individual attitudes or beliefs shared by some portion of the adult population.

Consensus and Divided Opinion

Typically, public opinion is distributed among several different positions, and the distribution of opinion can tell us how divided the public is on an issue and whether compromise is possible. When polls show that a large proportion of the respondents (those who respond to a poll) appears to express the same view on an issue, we say that a consensus exists, at least at the moment the poll was taken. Figure 6–1 shows a pattern of opinion that might be called consensual. Issues on which the public holds widely differing attitudes result in divided opinion (see Figure 6–2).

Figure6–1.Consensual Opinion

Source: CNN/ORC Poll. April 28–May 1, 2016.
Question: Does ISIS represent a very serious threat to the United States, a moderately serious threat, just a slight threat, or no threat at all?
Figure6–2.Divided Opinion
Source: CNN/ORC Poll. April 28–May 1, 2016.
Question: Do you favor or oppose the United States sending ground troops into combat operations against ISIS forces in Iraq or Syria?

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