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Formation of Public Opinion

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Kristina Wynes

on 30 December 2013

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Transcript of Formation of Public Opinion

Political Socialization
Every person develops their own personal political opinions through a process called political socialization. This process begins in early childhood and involves the many experiences and relationships that lead us to view the political world as we do.
These personal opinions translate into public opinion when a group of people publicly express the same view.
Factors affecting political socialization include family, school, age, race, income, occupation, residence, and group affiliations.

Opinion Leaders
Opinion leaders
are people who, for multiple reasons, strongly influence the views of others.
These are people who typically hold public office
Some opinion leaders are professionals such as doctors, lawyers, teachers, or ministers. Others are just active members in their local communities.
Opinion leaders tend to express their opinions through newspapers, magazines, radio talk shows, television shows, or the Internet.

Mass Media
Mass media
includes all the means of communication that reach large and widely dispersed audiences simultaneously.
The mass media influences public opinion in several ways. It reinforces attitudes and opinions that are already established and brings the attention of the public to certain issues. It shows people what others think and allows for politicians to reach larger audiences.
Ideally, personal and political bias would be kept out of the media but the reality is that the language used and the presentation of a story can create bias and alter public opinion.
The Formation of Public Opinion
What is Public Opinion?
Public opinion
is defined as the attitudes held by a significant number of people on matters of government and politics.
Public opinion involves only the views that relate to public affairs.
Public affairs
are events and issues that concern the people at a large and include politics, public issues, and the making of public policy
Public opinion is formed in a very complex process, so the factors that affect it are numerous.
We will be focusing on just five of these main factors that affect public opinion. These five factors include political socialization, mass media, peer groups, opinion leaders, and historic events.
Historic Events
Since historic events affect the views of large numbers of people, they have a huge impact on the direction of public opinion.
An example of a historical event that dramatically changed how Americans viewed the role of government in the United States was the Great Depression. It prompted a large majority of American's to support an expanded role of government in the nation's economic and social life. It also caused some American's to switch their loyalties from Republican to Democrat.
Peer Groups
Peer groups
are the people that one regularly associates with.

They typically include our friends, classmates, co-workers, and neighbors.
Peer groups affect public opinion because people tend to trust the views of those close to them.
People that are part of the same peer group also tend share the same socializing experiences and are likely share the same views.

The first place children start to learn about the political world is within their family.
Children learn about politics by listening to what their parents, older siblings, and older relatives have to say.
Even though young children are generally not concerned with politics, they do pick up some core attitudes from their families that lay a foundation for them to build their own political opinions later in life.
When children first start going to school is when the influence of the family starts to diminish. This allows an opportunity for new views and opinions to be picked up.
Schools teach children the basics of the American political system in order to prepare them to become good citizens. The political knowledge that students pick up in school leads them to begin forming their own political opinions.
Current Event
Public Opinion in the Media
Who influences your own political opinions the most? Your parents? Friends?
Does the media influence what you think about politics? Why or why not?
Are there any historical events you can remember happening during your own lifetime that have helped shaped public opinion or your own personal opinion?
Kull , Steven . "Framing of Syria issue key to public support." CNN World. Cable News Network , 06 Sept 2013. Web. 24 Oct 2013.

McClenaghan , William . Macgruder's American Government . Upper Saddle River : Pearson , 2009. Print.

"public opinion." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2013. Web. 24 Oct. 2013.

Streissguth , Tom . Media Bias. Tarrytown : Marshall Cavendish Corporation , 2007. Print.

ushistory.org, . "What Factors Shape Political Attitudes?." American Government Online Textbook. ushistory.org, n.d. Web. 18 Oct 2013.


"Jimmy Talks to Kids-Politics." Youtube. Web. 24 October 2013.

"Local Delegates Weighing Public Opinion about Syria." YouTube. Web. 23 October 2013.

Public Opinion on whether or not the United States should get involved in Syria has a lot to do with how President Obama frames the issue.
When the issue is framed as an attack against the Syrian government and not chemical weapon capabilities, more Americans are opposed to getting involved.
Most American's feel that a response to the use of chemical weapons is necessary, but are not supportive of going to war. If President Obama solidifies the evidence that Syria has chemical weapons, he would be able to sway the public opinion that the United States should get involved.
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