|The State of Texas: Government, Politics, and Policy, 4e, combines concise content with effective digital tools that provide a personalized learning experience for every student. Built to align directly with state learning outcomes and core objectives, this highly readable program provides students with the content and tools to make Texas government relevant in their lives.|
|Title: The State of Texas: Government, Politics, and Policy|
|Author: Sherri Mora|
|Genre: Government, Politics, Humanities|
|Release: 2020 (Edit)|
|[Ebook] [Translate] [Audiobook] [Downloads]|
Table of Content:
- Introduction to Texas History and Politics
- The American Federal System and the Texas State Constitution
- The Texas Legislature
- The Executive Department and the Office of the Governor of Texas
- The Court System in Texas
- The Criminal Justice System in Texas
- Local Governments in Texas
- Public Opinion and the Media in Texas
- Voting and Political Participation in Texas
- Campaigns and Elections in Texas
- Political Parties in Texas
- Interest Groups and Lobbying in Texas
- Public Policy in Texas
- Financing State Government
|What Is Public Opinion?|
It is reasonable to assume that public intent is the most important determinant of what happens politically in a democracy. The American Founders were very aware of this concept, naming the legislature, the representative body, as preeminent. At the same time, however, the Founders doubted “the public’s capacity to contribute constructively to political decision-making” and, therefore, in part, created the bicameral legislature to isolate decision makers from the masses and allow for focused deliberation. Over the years, politicians, theorists, and political scientists have argued over what role the public in general should play and how much influence it ought to have over policy. The reality, along with the debate, has transformed over time.
Each of these categories has implications for the ways in which public opinion
can and/or should be taken into account. The measures’ perspective determines which type of public opinion they want to examine, influences the measurement tool they use, and colors their interpretation of the results.
How Can It Be Measured?
Public opinion is measured formally though voting (see Chapter 9) and informally through public opinion polls (surveys and focus groups) and the mass media. Public opinion polling as we know it today began to emerge in the mid-1800s in the form of straw polls. Newspapers would set up outside of polling places and interview men (and, later, women) after they cast their vote. Much of the early polling era was characterized by these personal interviews, the results of which were published and shared with increasingly large audiences as newspaper circulation increased.
The 1920s and 1930s saw a convergence of changes. A growing concern over
accuracy was accompanied by the founding of polling organizations, such as
Gallup (originally the American Institute of Public Opinion) and Harris. Both
employed more scientific methodologies, such as statistical sampling, and they
could field large networks of interviewers to more accurately monitor national
public opinion. It is important to note that just as Gallup and Harris were discovering national trends, so too was the public. The progress of communication technologies allowed citizens greater and faster access to information from an ever-widening geographic area.8 In addition, the media were pushing for more data about their readers and listeners because they wanted to be able to sell those data to advertisers. The advent of broadcast media—radio and then television—as well as a swelling populace meant more advertising and an increased need to know who the members of the public were and what they wanted.
In the early 1970s, the cost of telephoning drastically decreased. In that same
period, the relative complexity of political issues in the United States increased
(civil rights, Vietnam, countercultures, culture wars), thereby increasing the need to more accurately take measure of the public’s pulse. Politicians began to take polling data seriously, particularly those related to presidential and gubernatorial administrations. The process of public opinion polling became more scientifically rigorous. Terms such as “population,” “scientific sampling,” “margin of error,” and “response rate” became common language in political circles. Given the impracticality of surveying everyone, polling organizations began to use statistical methodology, the most important of which is probability sampling.
Suppose, for example, you want to find out what Texans think of toll roads. All
Texas citizens are your population. But instead of phoning every single citizen, which would take far too much time and money, you decide to call a percentage of that population: That percentage is your sample. The tricky part is making sure that your sample is representative of the whole. In previous chapters, we’ve discussed types of representation. Here, descriptive representation is particularly important. You typically want your sample to be descriptively representative; that is, representative of your targeted population’s demographics (sex, race, age, income levels, political values, and so on).
Definition “A research technique for measuring characteristics of a given population of individuals”
- Identifying a population
- Sampling that population
- Determining an instrument method (personal, phone, or mail interviews)
- Developing an interview instrument (typically some kind of questionnaire)
- Determining the type of analysis (quantitative)
- Census survey, which counts the individuals within a population
- Sample survey, which interviews a nonscientific sampling of people within a population
- Probability sample survey, which interviews a scientifically determined sampling of people within a
- population; results can be extrapolated to overall population
- Panel survey, which re-interviews people to determine changes in opinion over time
- Low response rates; people are not required to respond
- Biased sampling; those who respond may not be representative of larger population
- Leading questioning/poor questionnaire design
- Potential ignorance on issue being studied