Seminar in Public Opinion
In this seminar, we will study the nature and origins of public opinion and its representation through the media. Beyond developing an understanding of what public opinion is and the role it plays in a democracy, we will also look at the representation of public opinion in the media, the collection of public opinion data by and for the media, and the role that the media play in representing the state of public opinion to their audience members. This will include the linkage between elite and mass opinion, and the influence of public opinion on policy making. All of this will take place in the context of understanding the quality of the measurement of public opinion and the accuracy of its representation in the media. The focus will be on the use of polls and surveys to measure public opinion, although other techniques will be briefly considered. We will use the case studies of pre-election and exit polls to consider how information about public opinion is collected and disseminated and what the impact of alternative representations in news stories might be.