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AP American Government: Chapter Five: Public Opinion

AP American Government: Chapter Five: Public Opinion

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Published by: irregularflowers on Jul 16, 2010
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Chapter 5: Public OpinionI.The Framers of the Constitution did not try to create agovernment that would do from day to day “what the people want.” They created a government for the purpose of achieving certain substantive goals.A.One means of achieving these goals was popularule, as provided for by the right of the people to vote for members of the House of Representatives. But other means were provided as well: representativegovernment, federalism, the separation of powers, a Billof Rights, and an independent judiciary. These were allintended to be checks on public opinion.B.The Framers knew that in a nation as large as theUS, there would rarely be a “public opinion”: rather there would be many “publics holding many opinions.The Framers hoped that the struggle among these many publics would protect liberty while at the same time permitting the adoption of reasonable policies thatcommanded the support of many factions.II.It is not easy to know what the public thinks.III.The more people are active in and knowledgeable about politics, the more weight their opinion carries ingovernmental circles.
Political activists also think differently about politics.B.The government attends more to the elite viewsthan to popular views, at least on many matters.What is Public Opinion?I.Even if people have heard of a given person or issue,how a pollster words a question can dramatically affectthe answer he or she gets.A.Many polls ask voters to think only about the benefits of a program and not about the costs.II.Opinions on public officials may not be stable.III.Our specific attitudes about particular matters may bemuch less important for the health of society than our underlying political culture.The Origins of Political AttitudesI.There are real and important limits to the impact of advertising. Those limits exist because we have learned,independent of government and the market, some thingsthat help us make our own choices.The Role of the Family
I.The majority of young people identify with their parent’s political party. This process begins fairly early in life. As people grow older, they become more independent of their parents, but there nevertheless remains a great dealof continuity between youthful partisanship and adult partisanship.II.The ability of the family to inculcate a strong sense of  party identification has declined in recent years.Accompanying this decline in partisanship has been asharp rise in the proportion of citizens describingthemselves independents.A.Part of this change results from the fact thatyoung voters have always had a weaker sense of  partisanship than older ones.III.Though we still tend to acquire some measure o partisanship from our parents, the meaning of thatidentification is far from clear.A.So far the evidence suggests that children aremore independent of their parents in policy preferencesthan in party identification. The correlation of children’sattitudes with parental attitudes on issues involving civilliberties and racial questions is much lower than thecorrelation in their party identification.B.This may be because issues change from onegeneration to the next, because children are moreidealistic than their parents, or because most parents donot communicate to their children clear, consistent positions on a range of political issues.ReligionI.One way in which the family forms and transmits political beliefs is by its religious tradition. In generalCatholic families are somewhat more liberal oneconomic issues than white Protestant ones, whileJewish families are much more liberal on both economicand social issues than families of either Catholics or Protestants.
There are two theories as to why this should beso. The first has to do with the social status of religiousgroups in America. The second theory emphasizes thecontent of the religious tradition more than the socialstatus of its adherents.II.Religious differences make for politicaldifferences.
A.There are no significant differences in how people holding differing views of the Bible feel abouteconomic issues, as opposed to social or foreign policyissues.B.Fundamentalists and nonfundamentalists haveabout the same opinion on government job guaranteesand spending on government services. This suggests that both social status and religious tradition help explain theeffect of religion on politics.The Gender Gap
The gender gap is the difference in political views between men and women.II.Men have been increasingly republican since the mid-1960s, while the voting behavior of women hasremained unchanged.
The biggest reason for this gap seems to involveattitudes about the size of government, gun control,spending programs aimed at the poor, and gay rights.Men have always been more conservative than womenin their views on these social issues, but the late 1960sand early 1970s men had changed their party loyalty tomatch their policy preferences.Schooling and InformationI.Attending college has a big impact on political attitudes,usually making them more liberal. College students aremore liberal than the population generally, and studentsat the most prestigious schools are the most liberal.A.The longer students stay in college, the moreliberal they are.B.Having gone to college increases the rate atwhich people participate in politics.II.One possibility for why this is has to do with the peoplethat colleges attract. Another is that college and postgraduate schooling expose people to moreinformation about politics from all sources.A.Their political beliefs may be shaped by theiexperiences as much as what they learn in the classroom.B.The level of political information one has is the best single predictor of being liberal on some issues.III.Another possibility is that college somehow teachesliberalism.A.The political disposition of professors is in partthe result of the kinds of people who become teachers, but it is also the result of the nature of intellectual work.

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