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Public Opinion

Public Opinion
Democratic Ideals, Democratic Practice

Fourth Edition

July 2020 | 536 pages | CQ Press
In Public Opinion: Democratic Ideals, Democratic Practice, Fourth Edition, Clawson and Oxley link the enduring normative questions of democratic theory to existing empirical research on public opinion. Organized around a series of questions—In a democratic society, what should be the relationship between citizens and their government? Are citizens’ opinions pliable? Are they knowledgeable, attentive, and informed?—the text explores the tension between ideals and their practice. Each chapter focuses on exemplary studies, explaining not only the conclusion of the research, but how it was conducted, so students gain a richer understanding of the research process and see methods applied in context.
Tables, Figures, and Features
Part I. What Should the Role of Citizens Be in a Democratic Society?
Chapter 1. Public Opinion in a Democracy
Theories of Democracy

What Is Public Opinion?

Defining Key Concepts

Empirical Assessments of Public Opinion

Themes of the Book

Appendix to Chapter 1 Studying Public Opinion Empirically
Public Opinion Surveys



Focus Groups

Content Analysis


Part II. Are Citizens Pliable?
Chapter 2. Political Socialization
Childhood Socialization

Parental Transmission of Political Attitudes

Generational and Period Effects

Genetic Inheritance of Political Attitudes


Chapter 3. Mass Media
What Should Citizens Expect from the Mass Media in a Democracy?

What General Characteristics of the Mass Media Shape News Coverage?

What Specific Characteristics of the Traditional News Media Shape the Reporting of Political Events?

What About Fake News?

Are Citizens Affected by the Mass Media?

Media Effects in a Changing Technological Environment


Chapter 4. Attitude Stability and Attitude Change
Are Americans’ Attitudes Stable?

Presidential Approval

Psychological Approaches to Attitudes


Part III. Do Citizens Organize Their Political Thinking?
Chapter 5. Ideology, Partisanship, and Polarization
Converse’s Claim: Ideological Innocence

Ideological Identification

Party Identification



Chapter 6. Roots of Public Opinion: Personality, Self-Interest, Values, and History



Historical Events


Chapter 7. Roots of Public Opinion: The Central Role of Groups
Race, Ethnicity, and Public Opinion

Rural Consciousness

Gender and Public Opinion


Part IV. Do Citizens Endorse and Demonstrate Democratic Basics?
Chapter 8. Knowledge, Interest, and Attention to Politics
How Knowledgeable, Interested, and Attentive Should Citizens Be in a Democracy?

Are Citizens Knowledgeable about Politics?

Measuring Political Knowledge

Why Are Some Citizens More Knowledgeable Than Others?

What Are the Consequences of Political Knowledge?

Are Citizens Interested in and Attentive to Politics?


Chapter 9. Support for Civil Liberties
Support for Democratic Principles

Are Americans Tolerant?

Sources of Tolerant Attitudes

Contextual Influences on Tolerance Judgments

Are Elites More Tolerant?

Civil Liberties Post-9/11


Chapter 10. Support for Civil Rights
Public Opinion and Presidential Candidates

Support for Civil Rights Policies


Part V. What Is the Relationship between Citizens and Their Government?
Chapter 11. Trust in Government, Support for Institutions, and Social Capital
Trust in Government

Support for Institutions

Social Capital


Chapter 12. Impact of Public Opinion on Policy
Should Public Opinion Influence Policy?

Is Public Opinion Related to Policy?

Do Politicians Follow or Lead the Public?

Public Opinion and Foreign Policy


Part VI. What Do We Make of Public Opinion in a Democracy?
Chapter 13. Conclusion
What Should the Role of Citizens Be in a Democratic Society?

Are Citizens Pliable?

Do Citizens Organize Their Political Thinking?

Do Citizens Endorse and Demonstrate Democratic Basics?

What Is the Relationship between Citizens and Their Government?

What Do We Make of Public Opinion in a Democracy?

About the Authors

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1

Chapter 2