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
randomfashion--one could compute the likelymargin of errorin 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 estimateat 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.