Posted: January 20th, 2023
Politics of Public Opinion Assignment
How much attention should policymakers pay to opinion polls? Henry Ford famously said “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said ‘faster horses.’” We elect representatives not simply to do what they’re told, but to exercise their judgement.
On the other hand, they are there to represent us, and that means – at least to some extent – doing what their constituents want. As famous pollster George Galllup said, “When a president or any other political leader pays attention to poll results, he is, in effect, paying attention to the views of the people. Any other interpretation is nonsense.”
President Bill Clinton was well known for paying close attention to opinion polls before saying or doing anything. His successor, George W. Bush, was equally famous for ignoring them. My view: Presidents and policy makers have access to information and analysis that we don’t. I feel better about them relying on that than the opinion of the guy ahead of me in line at Whataburger when making complex foreign policy decisions. I think that makes me an elitist, but I can live with that.
What do you think? For your assignment this week, find an opinion poll about any public policy matter published within the last two months. Write a 2 – 5 page essay explaining..
1 What questions were asked and how they were worded?
2. What was the poll’s sample and universe? (“Sample” is who they asked. “Universe” is the total group the sample is meant to represent)
3. What were the results?
4. Who paid for the poll? Who conducted it? Does that matter?
5. What polling errors might have affected its accuracy or usefulness?
6. What, if anything, should policymakers do differently as a result of this poll?
Submit in Word. Cite your sources.
Here’s a great place to look for polls: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/latest_polls/ (Links to an external site.)
And another: http://www.gallup.com/home.aspx (Links to an external site.)
And another: http://www.pollingreport.com/ (Links to an external site.)
And another: http://www.cbsnews.com/feature/cbs-news-polls/ (Links to an external site.)
And another: http://www.quinnipiac.edu/news-and-events/quinnipiac-university-poll/ (Links to an external site.)
Here’s some background on polling: http://ropercenter.cornell.edu/support/polling-fundamentals/ (Links to an external site.)
And on how to interpret polls: http://ropercenter.cornell.edu/support/analyzing-polls/ (Links to an external site.)
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