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 THE POLITICAL NATURE OF THE MASSES Democratic government both assumes and requires extensive participation by citizens in the functioning of government. The extent and nature of participation depends some on the model of democracy. The majoritarian model puts more emphasis on mass participation. The pluralist model emphasizes participation by intense minorities, those who are vitally interested in the policy options at stake. To judge how well either model operates, we need to know what opinions are held by the public generally and specifically by groups within the public. The best way to acquire this information is through survey research, or public opinion polls. The basics of the theory behind a sample survey. One does not need to examine every case in a population to draw some conclusions about that population. One can draw inferences (estimates) about the population's characteristics from studying a sample of its cases. The more cases in the sample one studies, the more accurate the inferences. Moreover, if the sample of cases studied were drawn in a random fashion--one could compute the likely margin of error in the estimates or inferences. The key feature of a random sample is that there is a known probably attached to the likelihood of each case appearing in the sample. In a simple random sample, each case has an equal probability of occurrence. For random samples of specified sizes, here are the likely error rates--you are 95% sure that your estimate will be within the range of error: 200 cases7% error -- (196 cases, in truth) 600 cases 4% -- (600) 1,000 cases3% -- (1,067) 2,500 cases2% --(2,401) The percentage of error in the inference is called the sampling error, and it distributes so: Interpreting the error rate: Let's assume a sample size of 1,067 stating that 46% of the population approve of the job that Bush is doing as president: This is called a point estimate A sample that size has a 3% error rate, so we anticipate that the point esimate is not exactly right. So we can be 95% confident that the true estimate lies within 43% and 49% This is called the internal estimate at the 95% confidence interval Implications of this relationship: Most national samples have about 1,000 cases, which produces error rates of 3% about the point estimates reported Note that sampling error is dependent on the sample size, and not on the size of the population being sampled. To be accurate within 3%, you need a sample size of 1,067- regardless of whether you are sampling in the nation or in the smallest state. Therefore, it costs as much to draw a sample in a state as in a nation. We usually have better poll data for the nation than for any state. There are many other errors in making inferences from survey research Poorly worded questions Lack of correspondence between the date of the survey and the prediction Poor analysis of the data The survey data available for our usage: 1990-91 World Values Survey--described in Dalton on pp. 289-290. Carried out in 42 nations with support from research foundations and national governments. Dalton based his book on survey data from only five countries: United States N= 1,839 Britain N= 1,484 West Germany N= 2,101 France N= 1,002 East Germany N= 1,336 How do people get their opinions People acquire their values through political socialization, the complex process through which individuals become aware of politics, learn political facts, and form political values. There are various agents of socialization: Family School Community Peers Media There are two operating principles that characterize early learning: The primacy principle: What is learned first is learned best The structuring principle: What is learned first structures later learning. Learning in the family utilizes both of these principles. Consider the example of religion. This is acquired through the family. Similarly, parental influences can also be seen in your party identifications.