Monday, December 11

Public Opinion

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Public policy has always been a battleground; the most complicated battleground where the most arduous battles have been fought. There are no clear winners nor are there clear losers in this war and many a person hath been harmed whilst in participation. Never has this blood-sport been pursued by political elites more fiercely than in the quest for John Q. Public, and though there is a futility directly associated with war in general, the search for this man’s support is especially impossible.

Our most reliable source of measurement (when speaking in regards to public opinion) is polling, but we only get a certain amount of accuracy with this, and it is very limited. Random sampling when polling can be done incorrectly, the question can be leading, and the results can be tampered with! Not to mention that even when a poll is correctly administered, there will always be a level of sampling error. As demonstrated in the book, one can ask essentially the same question to the same “public” and receive completely opposing results based on whatever error one could call it. With all these factors stacked against our most accurate form of measurement then what hope is there for anyone to know what the public really wants?

Next to our public policy war is a culture war: progressives, populists, orthodox, and the thousands of other diverse cultures in American clash against one another on a daily basis in attempts to gain political leverage over one another. How can one possibly make one opinion of all of these variances? It is impossible. Even the gender gap, a relatively small difference in type of people creates a seemingly insurmountable amount of difference when regarding the public opinion measurement: a man and a woman’s priorities differ on a political scale by as much as 13%! There is clearly no way that one can integrate the different cultures into one majoritarian opinion.

Lastly, how can one expect to have an opinion on something that holds no value to that person? Vietnam and Watergate in addition to the many other political scandals of the last 50 years have caused a great decrease in efficacy as a whole and an increase in the political ambivalence. There are now more moderates and disaffected voters than any other time in history. The people in America aren’t even aware of their own class in society! (Much less how they want to vote on any given issue). Yes Americans are very politically active, but they are not as active as a republic requires of the and as such, they’re ignoring their civic duty. Under this assumption, Americans cannot be trusted even to give their opinion in their own best interest.

The inaccuracies and limitations on measuring and acting upon public opinion seem too great in which to put any amount of faith. The founders knew this too and they put very specific limits on public opinion to make sure that there could not be the same mix-up that some fear is happening today: that public opinion is not being followed. This was done not only to protect us as a nation from the radical views of both pure liberals and pure conservatives, but also from those who do not know any better. (Like the libertarians.) There just simply cannot be any real amount of weight given to public opinion if the current impediments remain in place.


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