Term Paper: Public Opinion How Is Public Opinion Formed

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Public Opinion

How is public opinion formed and what are some of the influences that go into public opinion? According to a scholarly sociological study in the journal Political Behavior, there are four central concepts related to the forming of public opinion. The first is heuristics: they are "common judgmental shortcuts that people use to draw complicated inferences" and hence, make decisions; typically, those shortcuts are endorsements, affiliation with a certain party, polls, and the demographics the candidate reflects (Druckman, et al., 2009, p. 491). The second concept is media priming: a person is environmentally active, and by seeing the president on television promoting environmental causes primes that person to vote for the president; in other words, the media presents candidates' positions and voters form opinions based on those media images.

The third concept is online processing: a voter hears from "raw data" that a candidate is pro-choice, for example, and the voter makes an "evaluation" based on that data; and when election day comes the voter has an opinion but no recollection of why that opinion was formed, but they remember the moment and the raw data and their opinion holds fast. The fourth concept, motivated reasoning, is a bit more complicated; the authors call it the "systematic biasing of judgments in favor of one's immediately accessible beliefs and feelings," and for example a voter likes "Candidate X" and then only seeks out information regarding that one candidate.

What communication channels exist as influences into public opinion? Certainly the media (television, movies, radio, print and digital media) have a huge influence on voters. In the first year of George W. Bush's presidency, especially following the terrorists attacks on 9/11, which were broadcast over and over on television, the public opinion on Bush's handling of his job was sky high, with 90% approval; however, by February, 2007, as the unpopular Iraq war dragged on, and a majority of Americans opposed it, Bush's approval ratings dropped to 32%. The channels that brought a change in public opinion were mainly television (Bardes, et al., 2008, p. 192). Also, Bardes explains, the family is… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Public Opinion How Is Public Opinion Formed.  (2011, January 12).  Retrieved December 7, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/public-opinion-formed/49486

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"Public Opinion How Is Public Opinion Formed."  Essaytown.com.  January 12, 2011.  Accessed December 7, 2019.