Polling and Public Opinion

Polling and Public Opinion: A Canadian Perspective

PETER M. BUTLER
Foreword by Michael Adams
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 256
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442685482
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  • Book Info
    Polling and Public Opinion
    Book Description:

    Focusing on many of the vital topics of our time,Polling and Public Opinionis an in-depth look at the rise of one of the most important but least understood methods by which politicians and governments gauge the popular will.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8548-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xvi)
    MICHAEL ADAMS

    Canadians read about polls in the news media almost every day. Hearing about the aggregated opinions of our fellow citizens has become as familiar to us as reading the views of our favourite columnists or skimming over advertisements to get to the news stories that interest us. In our information-saturated world, the availability of public opinion data seems altogether unremarkable. Some even complain of poll fatigue, fretting that we know too much about what our fellow citizens think – perhaps to the detriment of the coherence and resolve of our own opinions. Although polling is ubiquitous today, the art and...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-6)

    Polling and public opinion have occupied a central place in presentations I have made on Canadian society to students at Dalhousie University and when serving as a consultant to political clients. Those who have found some value in the presentations often request that I direct them to literature which would explain the nature of public opinion polling and perhaps show how opinions collected from individuals may be interpreted to reflect the collective thinking of large numbers of people. There are, of course, a variety of good books about public opinion. They are usually focused on the United States and deal...

  6. 1 Polling and Understanding Public Opinion
    (pp. 7-45)

    Assessments of public opinion have become everyday events in Canadian society, helping to determine what we will buy, how we will spend our tax dollars, and, especially, how we will vote in elections. A question frequently asked of pollsters, pundits, and professors who study public opinion is how, in a country as diverse as Canada, can a few scant observations provided by a selected number of individual respondents be taken as an expression of the beliefs of entire communities or indeed of the whole nation? This question is at the root of any presentation which claims to explain what the...

  7. 2 Methods of Collecting Opinions
    (pp. 46-82)

    Despite a growing use of opinion polls, there are many misconceptions about how they are done. To convey the ‘facts’ about what people think, the trick has always been to turn the opinions of individuals into a reliable representation of the public mood. As we have noted above, problems have often been attributed to poor research techniques. Therefore, to solve problems with measurement, pollsters usually apply the basic methods of social science research to their data gathering. This begins with systematic and verifiable observation, involving both quantitative and qualitative data-collection techniques. Qualitative techniques account for categorical differences, the difference between...

  8. 3 Public Opinion and the Mass Media
    (pp. 83-107)

    The mass media occupies a central place in Canadian society, selectively creating awareness of social issues or events and interpreting them for the formation of public opinion. When we refer to the mass media, we mean the institutions both public and private, such as newspapers, radio, television, the internet, movies, and advertising agencies, that communicate information to a large number of people in our society. Marshall McLuhan used the phrase ‘the medium is the message,’ to describe the ability of technology to bring about change in human thinking and social relationships (McLuhan, 1995). He thought the message of technology is...

  9. 4 Public Opinion Polls and Social Policy
    (pp. 108-132)

    Public opinion studies have become important instruments for governance. Politicians may use polls to consult the voters about their approval ratings and to assess the impact of their political decisions on voting intentions. However, they also use survey data to specify the top issues which the electorate expects them to concentrate on while in office. As a general rule, public policymakers, both those who are elected and the bureaucrats, identify public expectations and preferences before they set the agenda for social policy to determine the extent of popular support for policy options. The reactions of the public are also collected...

  10. 5 Change and Stability in Opinions
    (pp. 133-168)

    Conceptions of important issues and priorities are regularly subject to change. Public opinion is characterized by its dynamic nature and tends to respond when new priorities are identified or when unexpected events in society create an altered view of how things should be. Consider the extent to which fears about international terrorism have changed attitudes about public security and made vigilance a concern for Canadians since the events of 11 September 2001 which resulted in the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York City. These events led to a loss of public confidence in the invulnerability of North...

  11. Conclusion: Polling and Public Opinion
    (pp. 169-172)

    Public opinion polls are an important medium for understanding life in contemporary Canada. This book was written to appeal to those who wish to know more about polls and develop some familiarity with the tools used by those who are engaged in doing them. One objective has been to show readers that the relationship between public opinion and polling extends well beyond politics and the study of voting. Public opinion research, which had its roots in political-attitude studies, has assumed a central place in other subjects of social investigation. In fact, we have explored the art and science of polling...

  12. References
    (pp. 173-186)
  13. Index
    (pp. 187-189)