Public Opinion

IMPORTANT -- This is a work in progress. I may or may not use some of the pdf readings linked below.

A graduate class in, obviously, public opinion. We'll focus on:

(1) What is it?
(2) How do we measure it?
(3) What can we do with it?

By #1, I mean how do we define it and how has the definition changed over time. By #2, I mean methodology, especially recent challenges and emerging approaches in finding out what people think. And by #3, I mean the consequences of public opinion, especially persuasion but also others. This is a graduate class, and while I love a good theory as much as the next PhDweeb, we'll spend lots of time discussing the professional aspects of opinion formation and management. In other words, I want you to be able to use this stuff out there in the real world, otherwise why bother?


When and Where?

1:25 - 2:15 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, & Fridays, Journalism Building Room 203. Don't blame me. I didn't ask for a MWF schedule and I have no idea how this happened. We'll manage, especially as I think later on we will have some outside work on Fridays, thus no class.


There's a textbook (see below). Have it by Week 2. Order it now, do not tell me all the reasons why you don't have it by Week 2's readings. I won't care. You'll also be responsible for readings in free pdf format I'll make available to you on a web site. The ID and Password, if prompted, will both be grady. I'll link directly to them below in the class calendar somewhere below. Other times, a reading may just be a web site.

Public Opinion (3rd edition -- No, the old one won't do, so don't ask.)
Glynn, et al.
Westview Press
ISBN 978-0-8133-4940-4 (um, I think)
(The e-book is fine)

Class Policies

There is a bunch of boilerplate university stuff they like to see on a syllabus or class web page. Basically don't cheat, don't steal, don't spit into the wind. Also do your own work, avoid copying the work of others, get to class on time, get to class all the time, do the readings, and actively participate in discussions to save my voice (I have only one working vocal cord -- long story -- so that explains my use of a mic). There is probably other stuff I'm forgetting. Do the good stuff, don't do the bad stuff. I don't give excused or unexcused absences, I merely count absences, so DO NOT tell me why you missed. You get three free misses, the equivalent of one week of class. On the fourth miss I automatically dock you a half-letter grade (5 pts) from your final grade. On the next, it's another half-letter grade. For every subsequent miss it's another 1/2 letter grade gone until we get into F-land. Tardy? Don't be. If you signed up for a class at this time, be here for a class at this time. Consistent tardiness will be penalized and you'll be publicly mocked. Attendance is expected. You don't get a grade for it, except negative.

Grades and Such (weights may change)

Response Papers are due at the beginning of class. No exceptions, no "I'll run and print it for you" or "I'll bring it later and you can at least mark it up" or any of that. Either you have it or you don't and, if you don't, that's fine but I don't want it. What's a response paper? Your response to the readings, no more than a single page, single-spaced, about 200 words give or take. Respond how? Agree or disagree with the readings, and say why. Or what about the readings struck you as really interesting, and why, Or what hit you as especially important today. Make sure your name is on it for credit, otherwise it's the same as if you didn't turn it in. I may ask you in class to elaborate on your response in class. References not necessary.

Run a Class. Yes, you get to be in charge (kinda sorta). Your job is to find a bit of video (not too much) or other interesting stuff to supplement the topic that day, and of course to lead discussion. I haven't decided yet whether to do this as a team or individually. Need to see how many are signed up for class, as it changes every semester, but 20% of the grade.

Presentation on a Specific topic. More on this later. You'll talk on a public opinion subject of your choosing for 20% of your grade. We'll do these after all the other calendar stuff is completed. I figure maybe two a day, so figure you're covering a minimum of 20 minutes of material for us. This can be a combo of some slideshow stuff, some video stuff, but it must be about public opinion.

An exam or paper at the end of the semester for 40% of your grade. More on this later. Odds are it'll be an exam on material covered throughout the semester.

I never negotiate grades. Ever. Don't ask.

Useful Sites

Pew Research Center
HuffPost Pollster
ANES Guide to Public Opinion
RealClearPolitics polls
Roper iPoll Databank



Class Calendar (in progress, likely to change, especially readings but also days we meet or don't meet.)

Week 1

Friday - No Class Having a first class on a Friday violates everything I hold dear, so no class today.

Week 2

History of the Concept

Monday: We intro the class, talk about what we mean by public opinion as a concept. Indeed, this will be a recurring theme throughout the semester, especially as it becomes harder and harder to adequately measure the concept. public opinion can be described like this, but we'll also watch this bit of video on Habermas' public sphere. Explains it better than I can.

Wednesday: Read text chapters 1 & 2. Write a response paper (see explanation above) on the text chapters.

Friday: No class. Read Allport, and Lazarsfeld. Remember, the ID and password for access is grady for any readings on the server. Answer for me this question: Is public opinion a science? Give me your answer via email to my email address. Your answer should be a yes or no, and why in fewer than a 100 words. Please, no attachments. I will not open them. Write it in the body of your email (or paste it after writing it in Word, etc.).


Week 3

History of the Concept II

Monday: MLK Holiday. No class. Keep an eye out for any public opinion issues that arise about or because of the holiday.

Wednesday: Read this old address by Sidney Verba. Also, in response paper, respond to this video about online crowds from a public opinion perspective.

Friday: NO CLASS. Instead, watch this brief video and read read this Berelson piece and an odd one by Back. Consider metaphors for public opinion, as well popular descriptions of public opinion in music, film, etc. Find something in pop culture that uses (or more likely, misues) the concept of public opinion. I will come up with a way for us to communicate about this, perhaps blogger. Still thinking on it.


Week 4

Methodology I:

Monday: Read Chapter 3 in text and, just so you're well versed on the basics. We'll dig much deeper later. Response paper should focus on the chapter and our current issues with polls. How have methods changed? How has methodology affected what we mean by public opinion?

Wednesday: Pew offers all kinds of great stuff on the basics of methodology, and you'll get to know them well. Start at this page, read it, and follow the Sampling link to the right. Read it. We'll likely focus on sampling this day.

Friday: From Pew, Collecting Survey Data, Questionnaire Design, and Election Polling. We'll discuss.


Week 5

Methodology II (because, dammit, I like methodology, plus we're living in "interesting times" when it comes to how polls are conducted):

Monday: A "likely voter" study by Pew. It's long, but you're in grad school. Long is good. Response paper, of course, due.

Wednesday: New methodologies in public opinion. A brief Pew piece and a related piece (read both). Finally, can social media replace polls? Here's one study, kinda long I know. Also, this study and this study. Read 'em before class.

Friday: Yes, class. More on methodology because I really really like methodology.


Week 6

Psychological Perspectives I : Warning, this is as far as I've gotten in updating our readings to fresh stuff, so links below may not work. ALSO, this will be the first week in which a student(s) runs a class.

Monday: Chapter 4-5 of the text. Response paper due.

Wednesday: Focus today on persuasion. Articles by Kim, et al., Yan.

Friday: Projection Day. Read these THREE studies: 1, 2 and 3.

Week 7

Psychological Perspectives II

Monday: As promised (or warned), it's Conspiracy Day. Wear a tinfoil hat and share your favorite conspiracies. Coincidentally, a 168-page report just came out and, no, I'm not making you read it. Instead this site sums it up nicely, so just read that instead. Also read studies by Meirick, Oliver & Wood, Jolley, van Prooijen & Justmann, and to prove it's all just a conspiracy against you, an oldish article by yours truly. Just because. I have loads of this stuff, so trying to keep it reasonable. Students in charge:

Wednesday: The third-person effect. Lo, et al., and this one.

Friday: tba

Week 8

Stereotyping and Similar Beasts

Monday: Read chapter 6 in the text. And this recent NYTimes piece. Students in charge:

Wednesday: Also this study and this study.

Friday: Gonna jump ahead a bit and give you a reading on the public's competence or knowledge (we revisit it again in Week 12). First, take the News IQ Quiz from Pew, be prepared to report your score in class and face public humiliation. Be honest in reporting your score. Then, read Prior and be prepared to discuss. I'll talk a lot today on political knowledge.

Week 9

Perceptions and Opinion Formation

Monday: Text chapter 7. In addition, read some current stuff like this, this, and this. The challenge today. Real world applications to theory stuff from the text. Students in charge:

Wednesday: No class, this day OR Friday

Friday: tba

Week 10

SPRING BREAK. Go break something.


Week 11

Economic Approaches and Attitudes

Monday: Chapter 8-9 in text. There's a lot here. Students in charge:

Wednesday: We'll finish the text stuff, also read measuring tolerance for discussion. I'll show this brief video in class. No need to watch it in advance.

Friday: There will be class today. We're going to read and discuss this paper, which brings in selective exposure and satire.

Week 12

Policy and Campaigns

Monday: Text, chapters 10-11. Students in charge:

Wednesday: Two readings today about the effectiveness of media campaigns about smoking and mental health.

Friday: More on campaigns and if they worked. This time, cancer and nutrition.

Week 13

Monday: NO RESPONSE PAPER (indeed, we're done with these, so write them no more). It's science day, or rather what people know (and don't know) about science. Read this brief Pew report. Also read this longish one and this study too.

Wednesday: This one reading. So read it.

Friday: A single reading, and lots of discussion about it.


Week 14

Monday: Read a couple of studies on whether presidential debates (or post-debate analyses) actually influence public opinion. So this study, and this study.

Wednesday: It's comedy day. Read this brief piece and this longer one. Oh, and we'll watch this bit of video in class, so don't bother watching before.

Friday: No class on 4/7. I'm outta town.


Week 15

Presentations begin.
Fifteen minutes per presentation. Be sure to include (obviously) public opinion, on any topic you like, and theory is always good too. Create slides, talk (don't read) the presentation. Through the miracle of Excel randomization, here is the order:

Monday (4/10): Jarrett, Martin, and McIntire
Wednesday (4/12): Male, Li, and Kao
Friday (4/14): Thomas, Huff, and Mitchell


Week 16

More Presentations

Monday No class today. I have an MRI scheduled, only time available and these things take far longer than they should, so we'll push today's presentations to Wednesday.

Wednesday (4/19): Sewell, Riley, and Swinson

The final exam, such as it is, will be "open book." Not sure what day yet it will be avvailable. I will make the questions available via ELC, which you will download, answer, and then upload to a folder that I will get around to creating. It'll be named something obvious like Final Exam. You can usually find this under Tools on ELC, top left corner maybe (I don't see it the way you see it). It may be called Dropbox or Assignments. Anyway, that's my plan. We'll talk more about this soon. There will be word limits on each answer, so you have to get to the point. Expect not so much factual stuff as questions that challenge you to integrate material. In other words, it's not just factual regurgitation.


Week 17
  There should be no week 17. Ignore this silliness.

The End














































































































































this poq piece

pew 1

pew 2



Still focusing on competence, as in political knowledge. Articles by Dusso & Kennedy, Richey & Zhu, and Robison.



this reading. Also, this long reading on the hostile media effect. Read them both, be prepared to discuss.




What went wrong in the 2016 election? A few readings and discussion. Here's Pew's take, Upshot's take, and 538's take. We'll likely revisit this later in the semester when a major report emerges.




































































Odds and Ends below, stuff I've saved and may or may not use.


I even have a quick-and-dirty slideshow online. A brief class as we warm up for the semester.

There are even some good quotes that include public opinion.

"Public opinion is no more than this, what people think that other people think."

spoken by Lucifer in a play by Alfred Austin back in Victorian era. No, really. The play is Prince Lucifer and you can look it up yourself, if you dare, on page 189, halfway down the page.


Apparent push poll

"Hitler" in Ukraine poll

Shenkman on The Daily Show

One version here. No video.

Shenkman on CNN

Shenkman's own video.

Youtube documentary on politcal ignorance

538 on 2012 polls


Twitter on Christie
Poll on Christie

Stuff to Use in Next Class

Shenkman on Stewart
Obama voters
Pew knowledge quiz


The Nation
Time magazine piece
Sydney Morning Herald
Congressional Quarterly

Fun with polls

also, the onion on poll groups,14260/

nyt on polls and guns

Pew Questionnaire 1

How one above done

Pew mixed methods

Pew Question Search

Nate Silver on 2012 polls

ANES site for lots of stuff

Silver on Stewart

Kohut on trust

ther Stuff via TED

Online crowds (chapter 1)

Power of Introverts (not sure what fits)

Why democracy matters (1?)

via youtube

media, public opinion, voter (hourlong panel)


A 4-minute video on sampling

Enlightenment and the public sphere. 47-minute video.

2 minute video on how media construct public opinion


Vid of Howard Rheingold on history of public sphere, 14 minutes.


8 minute vid on what is public opinion and media. dull.


vid: Is twitter a good measure of public opinion? 4 minutes


Coffee Houses and public sphere 

Pew video on religion change, about 2 minutes.

Bad video on Constructing Public Opinion, few minutes long.

Sabato on public opinion and socialization, few minutes, good.

PBS sketch history on pubop

Encyclopedia on pubop