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Question 3. Explain what it means to have a political ideology, and how ideology is distinct from party identification. Then, discuss the motives for adopting an ideology (not specific ideologies, but any ideology in general). In 1964, Philip Converse published a study of political attitudes, in which he claimed that very few people were ideological. Do you think things have changed since then? What are the reasons for changes or the lack of them? Is party identification or ideology a larger determinant of people’s political attitudes? 

Question 4. Conscientiousness, openness, and authoritarianism are three personality traits that have been shown to impact political attitudes. First, describe each trait and how it affects a person’s attitudes and behavior in general. Then, explain how each is linked to one’s political attitudes, ideologies, and views on particular political issues

Question 5. Two potential problems with surveys are double-barreled questions and sensitive questions. Explain what a double-barreled question is and why it would be a problem. Then, give an original example (i.e., not the one from the lecture) and explain how to fix it. Next, explain the ways in which survey takers can see a question as being sensitive and what the risks are of including sensitive questions in surveys. Finally, explain one technique for improving responses to sensitive questions.

  Question 6. Throughout the course, we have compared three theories of democracy: democratic elitism, pluralism, and participatory democracy. Describe each of these views and explain how they are different from one another. Then, discuss how these three viewpoints affect opinions on political socialization, the necessity of political knowledge, and the role of the mass media

Each question must be answer as esay format (3 paragraph or more) with a minimum of 300 words count 

Please answer each question based on the book attach 

YOU ONLY NEED TO ANSWER 3 OUT OF THE 4 QUESTIONS POST 

PUBLIC OPINION
Fourth Edition

To my parents, Dale and Janice Clawson, for all their love and
laughter.

To my mother, Rachel Oxley, whose encouragement and optimism
never wavered, and to my entire family for supporting my endeavors.

Sara Miller McCune founded SAGE Publishing in 1965 to support
the dissemination of usable knowledge and educate a global
community. SAGE publishes more than 1000 journals and over 800
new books each year, spanning a wide range of subject areas. Our
growing selection of library products includes archives, data, case
studies and video. SAGE remains majority owned by our founder
and after her lifetime will become owned by a charitable trust that
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Melbourne

PUBLIC OPINION

Democratic Ideals, Democratic Practice

Fourth Edition

Rosalee A. Clawson

Purdue University

Zoe M. Oxley

Union College

Copyright © 2021 by CQ Press, an Imprint of SAGE Publications,
Inc. CQ Press is a registered trademark of Congressional Quarterly,

Inc.

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Clawson, Rosalee A., author. | Oxley, Zoe M., author.

Title: Public opinion : democratic ideals, democratic practice / Rosalee A. Clawson,
Purdue University, Zoe M. Oxley, Union College.

Description: Fourth edition. | Thousand Oaks : Sage / CQ Press, [2021] | Includes
bibliographical references.

Identifiers: LCCN 2020017438 | ISBN 978-1-5443-9020-8 (paperback) | ISBN 978-
1-5443-9016-1 (epub) | ISBN 978-1-5443-9018-5 (epub) | ISBN 978-1-5443-9015-

4 (ebook)

Subjects: LCSH: Democracy. | Public opinion. | Political socialization. | Mass
media and public opinion.

Classification: LCC JC423 .C598 2021 | DDC 321.8—dc23

LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2020017438

Printed in the United States of America

This book is printed on acid-free paper.

Acquisitions Editor: Scott Greenan

Editorial Assistant: Sam Rosenberg

Production Editor: Rebecca Lee

Copy Editor: Colleen Brennan

Typesetter: Hurix Digital

Proofreader: Sally Jaskold

Indexer: Integra

Cover Designer: Janet Kiesel

Marketing Manager: Erica DeLuca

BRIEF CONTENTS
Tables, Figures, and Boxes
Preface
Acknowledgments
Part I What Should the Role of Citizens Be in a Democratic
Society?

Chapter 1 Public Opinion in a Democracy
Appendix to Chapter 1 Studying Public Opinion
Empirically

Part II Are Citizens Pliable?
Chapter 2 Political Socialization
Chapter 3 Mass Media
Chapter 4 Attitude Stability and Attitude Change

Part III Do Citizens Organize Their Political Thinking?
Chapter 5 Ideology, Partisanship, and Polarization
Chapter 6 Roots of Public Opinion: Personality, Self-
Interest, Values, and History
Chapter 7 Roots of Public Opinion: The Central Role of
Groups

Part IV Do Citizens Endorse and Demonstrate Democratic
Basics?

Chapter 8 Knowledge, Interest, and Attention to Politics
Chapter 9 Support for Civil Liberties
Chapter 10 Support for Civil Rights

Part V What Is the Relationship between Citizens and Their
Government?

Chapter 11 Trust in Government, Support for Institutions,
and Social Capital
Chapter 12 Impact of Public Opinion on Policy

Part VI What Do We Make of Public Opinion in a Democracy?
Chapter 13 Conclusion

Notes
Glossary
Index
About the Authors

DETAILED CONTENTS
Tables, Figures, and Boxes
Preface
Acknowledgments
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
Experiments
Interviews
Focus Groups
Content Analysis
Conclusion

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
Conclusion

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
Conclusion

Chapter 4 Attitude Stability and Attitude Change
Are Americans’ Attitudes Stable?
Presidential Approval
Psychological Approaches to Attitudes
Conclusion

Part III Do Citizens Organize Their Political Thinking?
Chapter 5 Ideology, Partisanship, and Polarization

Converse’s Claim: Ideological Innocence
Ideological Identification
Party Identification
Polarization
Conclusion

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

Personality
Self-Interest
Values
Historical Events
Conclusion

Chapter 7 Roots of Public Opinion: The Central Role of
Groups

Race, Ethnicity, and Public Opinion
Rural Consciousness
Gender and Public Opinion
Conclusion

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?
Conclusion

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
Conclusion

Chapter 10 Support for Civil Rights
Public Opinion and Presidential Candidates
Support for Civil Rights Policies
Conclusion

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
Conclusion

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
Conclusion

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?

Notes
Glossary
Index
About the Authors

TABLES, FIGURES, AND BOXES
Tables

A.1 Question Wording and Response Options Matter 31

A.2 Support for the Death Penalty in a Survey-Based
Experiment 39

2.1 Children’s Descriptions of the President’s Duties 52

3.1 Making Sense of Subtle Effects 108

4.1 Stability of Individual Political Attitudes from 1958 to 1960
119

4.2 Aggregate Opinion Can Be Stable While Individual Attitudes
Change 124

5.1 Key Components of Black Political Ideologies 163

5.2 Measuring Political Ideology 164

6.1 Measuring Authoritarianism 189

6.2 Big Five Personality Traits 194

6.3 Ten-Item Personality Inventory 195

6.4 Measuring Egalitarianism and Individualism 201

6.5 Measuring Moral Traditionalism 203

7.1 Measuring White Identity 223

7.2 Latino and Asian American Party Identification among
Registered Voters, 2018227

8.1 Political Knowledge, June 2017 242

8.2 Political Knowledge, 1989–2007 251

8.3 Measuring Political Knowledge 253

8.4 Traditional and Gender-Relevant Political Knowledge 255

8.5 The Perils of Measuring Political Knowledge: Short-Answer
versus Multiple-Choice Questions 258

8.6 Demographic Differences in Political Knowledge 262

9.1 Assessing Public Tolerance of Atheists: Stouffer’s Survey
Questions 281

9.2 Least Liked Political Groups, 1978 and 2005 286

10.1 Religion and Likelihood to Vote for a Presidential
Candidate, 2016 311

10.2 Measuring Hostile Sexism 317

10.3 White and Black Support for Reparations, 2019 325

11.1 Assessing Public Trust: Survey Questions from the
American National Election Studies 347

11.2 Focus Group Discussions of Members of Congress 365

Figures

1.1 Party Identification, 1952–2016 23

A.1 Public Opinion toward the Death Penalty, 1991–2018 34

2.1 Children’s Evaluations of the President’s Job Performance
53

2.2 Parent-Child Correspondence of Party Identification by
Family Politicization and Parental Attitude Stability 62

2.3 Stability of Party Identification Over Time, Overall and by
Preadult Parent-Child Correspondence 64

2.4 Generational Differences in Attitudes, 2019 70

2.5 Genetic Versus Environmental Factors Influencing Political
Opinions 73

3.1 Where Do Citizens Obtain News Daily? 84

3.2 Sorting Out Causal Relationships 102

3.3 Political Tolerance by Framing Condition 105

4.1 Opinion Toward Government Spending, 1971–1989 122

4.2 Presidential Approval for Barack Obama and Donald Trump
126

4.3 Political Awareness in Zaller’s Attitude Change Model 133

4.4 Zaller’s Mainstream and Polarization Effects during Vietnam
War Era 136

5.1 Levels of Conceptualization among the American Public,
1956 and 2000 154

5.2 Relationships between Issue Opinions for the American
Public and Political Elites, 1958 157

5.3 Attitude Constraint and Attitude Stability among American
Public and Elites 160

5.4 Ideological Identification over Time, 1972–2016 165

5.5 Symbolic and Operational Ideology Classifications, 2008
167

5.6 Party Differences in Issue Opinions, 2016 170

5.7 Hypothetical Portraits of the American Public 173

5.8 Public Attitudes toward Government Provision of Services,
1984 and 2016 175

6.1 The Effect of Authoritarianism on Political Attitudes, 2016
191

7.1 Black–White Differences in Party Identification and Issue
Opinions, 2016 214

7.2 Racial Resentment among Whites, 1986 and 2016 217

7.3 Political Attitudes of Millennials by Race and Ethnicity 222

7.4 Gender Differences in Party Identification and Issue
Opinions, 2016 232

8.1 Misperceptions by News Source 248

8.2 Interest in Politics and Current Campaign, 1964–2016 267

9.1 Importance of Democratic Principles 277

9.2 Tolerance of Political Minorities, 1954 282

9.3 Tolerance of Speechmaking, 1954–2018 283

9.4 Tolerance of Least Liked Groups, Communists, and Atheists,
1978 and 2005 288

9.5 Public Opinion: Civil Liberties versus National Security 296

9.6 Public Support for Counterterrorism Policies, 2009 and 2010
300

9.7 Counterterrorism Policy Opinions Vary by Identity of Target
301

10.1 Support for Presidential Candidates, 1937–2019: Religion
310

10.2 Support for Presidential Candidates, 1937–2019: Gender,
Race, Ethnicity, and Sexual Orientation 313

10.3 Support for Same Schools, by Race 320

10.4 Support for School Busing, by Decade and Race 321

10.5 Support for Preferences in Hiring and Promotion for Blacks
323

10.6 Support for Gay Rights, 1977–2019 329

10.7 Support for Transgender Rights, 2017 and 2019 335

11.1 Public Trust in Government, 1964–2016 348

11.2 Trust in Government for Specific Demographic Groups,
2016 355

11.3 Racial Differences in Views Regarding the Police, 2016
356

11.4 Confidence in the Supreme Court, Executive Branch, and
Congress, 1973–2018 361

11.5 Approval of Institutions and Members of Institutions, 1992
363

11.6 Membership Declines for Civic Associations between Peak
Year of Membership and 1997 369

12.1 Public Opinion and Guns 379

12.2 Support for Gun Control Measures, by Partisanship 380

12.3 Consistency between Public Opinion and Public Policy 386

12.4 Citizen and Interest Group Influence on Public Policy 390

12.5 Foreign Policy Preferences of the American Public, 2014–
2019 404

Boxes

Box 1.1 Gendered Nouns and Pronouns 11

Public Opinion in Comparative Perspective

Box 2.1 Childhood Political Socialization in Europe 58

Box 3.1 Social Media in China 90

Box 4.1 Political Discussion in Social Networks 138

Box 5.1 Party Polarization across the Globe 179

Box 6.1 Authoritarianism across the World 193

Box 7.1 Attitudes toward Immigrants around the World 229

Box 8.1 Gender and Political Knowledge in Canada 256

Box 9.1 Support for Democracy around the Globe 278

Box 10.1 Support for Gay Rights across the World 331

Box 11.1 Levels of Public Trust in Other Nations 359

Box 12.1 Comparing Opinion-Policy Congruence across
Democracies 391

PREFACE
When we first tell people that we are political science professors, the
most common reactions are to launch into a discussion of politics or
to politely acknowledge our jobs and then change the subject. An
especially memorable encounter happened to Zoe in the early
2000s. Upon re-entering the United States after a trip to Montreal,
the U.S. border official asked about her job, which was expected. He
proceeded to ask a most unexpected question: What did she think
about then-president George W. Bush’s foreign policies? After
babbling for a few sentences, she changed the subject!

Ever since the 2016 U.S. presidential election, different reactions
have been common when people learn what we do for a living.
“These are interesting times to teach politics” or “You sure have a lot
to talk about these days” have become typical responses. Interesting
political times these certainly are, and we have attempted to capture
some notable political developments and trends in this fourth edition.
These include partisan disdain and polarization, fake news, white
racial identity, rural consciousness, and support for the norms of
democracy. We have also incorporated exciting and important new
public opinion data or scholarship on childhood socialization,
Millennials and Generation Z, the effects of media ownership, news
habits, the role of social media, ideological identification,
polarization, the lingering effects of slavery, racial and ethnic opinion
differences (including in the domain of athletics), immigration
attitudes, interest in politics, transgender rights, disability rights, trust
in the criminal justice system, public support for gun control, and
foreign policy opinions. All the while, we maintain a focus on
enduring questions in the study of public opinion.

Our pedagogical goals for this edition remain the same. We want
students to grasp how fascinating and important it is to study politics
generally and public opinion more specifically. What better way is
there to attain that goal, we think, than to discuss public opinion in
the context of democratic thought? After all, it is the particular
salience of public opinion within a democracy that makes its study so

vital and interesting. To that end, we situate the field’s empirical
research within a normative framework, specifically theories of
democracy, and focus on especially important and revealing studies
rather than tediously summarizing every available piece of research.
We organize the text into six parts, each of which poses a normative
question that is significant for democratic theory: What should the
role of citizens be in a democratic society? Are citizens’ opinions
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? The chapters in each part
present evidence to help students answer the question at hand,
giving them both the content and context of public opinion. This
organization encourages students to understand and interpret the
empirical evidence in light of normative democratic theories, thus
enhancing their critical analysis skills.

We want students to appreciate the thrill of conducting research and
producing knowledge and to learn that conclusions about public
opinion emerge from original scholarship on the topic. Yet we also
want them to understand that no one piece of research is perfect and
that the ability to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of a piece
of research is a vital skill. So we devote attention to explaining
specific studies in some depth throughout the text. Rather than
presenting only the conclusions that are drawn from a study, this
approach lets students see how those conclusions were reached,
exposes them in a fairly organic way to the range of research
methods used in the study of public opinion, and illustrates how the
choice of method influences the conclusions that researchers draw.
We thus use an “embedded” research methods approach throughout
the book rather than consigning methods to one stand-alone chapter.
In addition, we provide an Appendix to Chapter 1 that encapsulates
the basic information students need about key public opinion
methods.

This book includes other important pedagogical features. We focus
heavily on American public opinion, but Chapters 2 through 12

contain feature boxes called “Public Opinion in Comparative
Perspective” that highlight public opinion issues in a variety of
countries and serve to deepen students’ understandings of American
public opinion. A wealth of data is presented in more than eighty
tables and figures throughout the book to help students grasp
important research findings. Key concepts appear in bold in each
chapter and are listed at the end of each chapter. The key concepts
are also defined in the Glossary at the end of the book. Each chapter
also contains a list of suggested sources for further reading. Brief
explanatory annotations are provided with each suggested source to
guide students as they delve deeper into a topic.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
With each edition of this book, we find we require assistance from
fewer people as we revise. Having said this, the help we did receive
was extremely valuable. Rosie’s Human Basis of Politics students
and students in Zoe’s Public Opinion and U.S. Politics Seminar on
Partisanship courses provided useful feedback on the book, most
especially pointing out when material was not crystal clear or
organized well enough. For thoughtfully reviewing a chapter for this
edition, we thank Molly Scudder. Thanks goes to Walter Schostak as
well for helpful feedback along the way. Since the publication of the
first edition, we have been approached by many professors who
have used the textbook in their classes. We were heartened to hear
their (mostly!) positive comments, were happy to learn we were on
the right track with our approach, and welcomed their suggestions
for areas in need of improvement.

Everyone we worked with at CQ Press was supportive, professional,
and friendly, as had been the case with our previous books. We
especially thank Monica Eckman and Scott Greenan for their
enthusiasm for the project and guidance. Kate Scheinman and Sam
Rosenberg carefully and efficiently managed the submission of our
chapters as well as the preparation of material for publication. They
were supportive and cheerful throughout, even as we kept missing
our deadlines. For the excellent copyediting of this edition, we thank
Colleen Brennan. As our production editor, Rebecca Lee
shepherded the book through the final prepublication stages with
ease. We also thank Elaine Dunn for her diligent and speedy
copyediting on the first edition. Her initial feedback continues to
shape our work. We worked closely with others at CQ on earlier
editions of the book. For their never-ending encouragement and
wonderful advice, we thank Brenda Carter, James Headley, Elise
Frasier, and, most especially, Charisse Kiino.

We also thank the professors that CQ Press commissioned to review
the book as we were preparing to revise it for the fourth edition. Their
feedback was extremely helpful. They include Davida J. Alperin

(University of Wisconsin–River Falls), Ray Block Jr. (Penn State
University), Gar Culbert (California State University, Los Angeles),
Brian Frederick (Bridgewater State University), and David Kimball
(University of Missouri–St. Louis). We would be remiss if we did not
acknowledge the invaluable guidance provided by the faculty who
reviewed the manuscript for our earlier editions, including Scott
Basinger, Mark Brewer, John Bruce, Erin Cassese, Gar Culbert,
Johanna Dunaway, Howard Gold, Paul Goren, Richard Hofstetter,
Ted Jelen, Mary Fran T. Malone, James Monogan, Kimberley Nalder,
Tom Nelson, Shayla Nunnally, Kurt Pyle, Andrea M. Quenette, Adam
Schiffer, Robert Y. Shapiro, Mike Schmierbach, and Matt Wilson.

Along with these CQ-commissioned reviewers, many others
provided valuable and specific feedback on material for prior
editions. Their suggestions then continued to shape this edition of
the book. For that, we thank Ben Bauer, George Bizer, Richard Fox,
Cary Funk, Ewa Golebiowska, Mike Grady, Jennifer Jerit, Suzanne
Parker, Evan Reid, Walter Schostak, Keith Shimko, Bas van Doorn,
Ryan Whelpley, Jeremy Zilber, John Zumbrunnen, and, most
especially, Janice Clawson. For prior editions, we also received all
manner of help from many others, including Carol Cichy, Michelle
Conwell, David Hayes, Lisa Howell, Katsuo Nishikawa, Andrea
Olive, Bill Shaffer, and Helen Willis. We must also mention our many
Ohio State friends, who have supported and encouraged us
throughout. John Clark, Larry Baum, David Kimball, and Staci Rhine,
in particular, have shared their suggestions and wisdom along the
way. Finally, we will always owe a debt of gratitude to our graduate
school advisers—Paul Allen Beck, Thomas Nelson, and Katherine
Tate—and to our undergraduate mentors—Janet Martin and Bruce
Stinebrickner. Bruce Stinebrickner also gave us helpful feedback on
Chapter 1, which strengthened that chapter.

Throughout this book, we present results from many published
academic papers and books. We also incorporate public opinion
data from organizations that, at great care and expense, conduct
surveys of the American public. Fortunately for us and for all
students of public opinion, they make their results and, at times, their

raw data publicly available. Thus, we gratefully thank the American
National Election Studies, General Social Survey, Pew Research
Center, Gallup Organization, and Bright Line Watch, as well as many
news organizations, academic institutions, and commercial firms that
conduct opinion polls. Without the public opinion data these
organizations have gathered, our book would be much less rich.

Although it does not quite take a village to raise our children, we
have needed help from many to care for our sons. Knowing that they
were in the hands of loving and responsible caregivers and friends
enabled us to write without worry. For this, Zoe thanks Anna Ott,
Samantha Couture, Heather Hutchison, the talented teachers and
staff in the Schenectady City School District, and a long list of former
Union College students. Rosie thanks Pauline Wein, the wonderful
staff at the Patty Jischke Early Care and Education Center, the
dedicated teachers in the Lafayette School Corporation, numerous
coaches, and most especially her parents, Dale and Janice Clawson,
who are always willing to keep their grandson for days on end. Rosie
also thanks Lori Norris and Sharon Phillips for their assistance with
household matters.

Finally, we owe special thanks to our families. We were both raised
by parents who placed priority on education and who encouraged us
to pursue whatever channels most interested us. Their faith that we
would succeed in our chosen career paths provided us with the
confidence to try to do just that. Sadly, Zoe’s mother passed away
before this book was first completed. She was very pleased to learn
that we were writing a book, and we know that she would have been
proud to read it. When writing the first edition, Rosie’s husband was
deployed much of the time. He was around for most of the later
revisions, although Rosie is quite sure there were times he would
have preferred Iraq or Afghanistan to yet another conversation about
public opinion. When he’s not around (and even when he is), Rosie
depends heavily on her family—a big thanks to Dale and Janice
Clawson; Tammy, Mike, Troy, and Jared Harter; Jill, Scott, Liv, and
Sadie Castleman; and her Cleveland cousins. Our sons Alonzo and
Owen bring us tremendous joy. We are thrilled to say they enjoy

discussing with us their views of the world, political and otherwise.
We are fortunate to have very supportive husbands. Des and Dale
not only enjoy talking about politics and have useful computer skills
that we have put to good use, but they also do a disproportionate
share of the household and parenting duties when we are immersed
in writing. And they provide us with many needed distractions from
our work. We don’t know how we got to be so lucky.

PART I WHAT SHOULD THE
ROLE OF CITIZENS BE IN A

DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY?

CHAPTER 1 PUBLIC OPINION IN A DEMOCRACY
AMERICAN NATIONALISM. Populism. Nativism. Identity politics. Racism. Sexism. Antidemocratic
impulses. Support for authoritarianism. These are among the perspectives and attitudes of some
members of the American public that received significant attention from political commentators and
journalists during the lead-up to or since the election of Donald Trump as the U.S. president in 2016.
Over this same time period, others have commented on the rise of political interest and attention,
engagement in political protests, support for democratic socialism, and tolerance for diversity that have
characterized some segments of the American public. These dueling characterizations of the citizenry
also hint at other features of the contemporary political landscape: division and polarization.

Placing so much high-profile attention on the views of the public reminds us that in a democracy, such
as the United States, what the people think matters. Describing and analyzing citizens’ political
perspectives is a worthy endeavor. More broadly, in democratic nations we expect the public to have a
role in governmental decision making. Yet the precise role that citizens should play in a democracy has
been argued about for centuries. Whether the public actually can and really does live up to democratic
expectations is also a debatable topic. In the pages that follow, we explore the normative issues related
to how the public ought to function in a democracy. Throughout this book, we review empirical studies of
public opinion that describe how the public actually functions in America. We then link these studies
back to the normative theories of how citizens should behave in a democracy. Focusing on public
opinion from these two angles will, we hope, provide you with a broad understanding of this important
topic. We will also devote attention to most of the views of the public mentioned in the opening
paragraph, in particular describing whether these trends are unique to today’s political world or were
present before the 2016 presidential election.

THEORIES OF DEMOCRACY
A simple definition of democracy is “rule by the people.” What exactly, however, does rule by the people
mean? Answering this and related questions about democracy is neither easy nor straightforward. In
fact, many people across many centuries have devoted their lives to examining democracy and
delineating the proper characteristics of a democracy. Democratic theory is “the branch of scholarship
that specializes in elucidating, developing, and defining the meaning of democracy.”1 Among other
topics, democratic theorists deliberate over how the people should rule in a democracy (by voting
directly on all laws or by electing representatives for this task) as well as who should qualify as a
democratic citizen (all adults, only those who are educated, or some other group). Democratic theorists
also focus on citizens’ ruling capabilities and the role of the public in a democracy, as indicated by the
following overview of major democratic theories.

Classical Democratic Theory
The earliest Western democratic societies emerged in the city-states of ancient Greece. In Athens’s
direct democracy, for example, governing decisions were made by the citizens, defined as all nonslave
men of Athenian descent. All citizens were eligible to participate in the Assembly, which met at least
forty times per year. Assembly members debated all public issues, often at great length, before making
any final decisions. The Assembly tried to reach a consensus on all matters, and unanimous decisions
were preferred, under the belief that the common …

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