21 terms

Chapter 7: Media and Public Opinion

public opinion polls
Quantitative and empirical instruments for measuring public opinion. Not all polls are equal. Some are better than others, depending on the methodology used, the quality of the sample, etc. Polls are imperfect, yet useful tools to gauge support or opposition to legislation, candidates, etc.
A small group selected by researchers to represent the most important characteristics of an entire population. For a sample to be useful, it must be "representative" of the whole population. For a sample to be representative of a whole (whether 30 million or 300 million), it only needs roughly 1,000 people.
simple random sample (probability sample)
A method used by pollsters to select a representative sample by guaranteeing that every individual in the population has an equal opportunity of being selected as a respondent.
random digit dialing
A method used by pollsters to select a representative sample by selecting respondents at random from a list of home and cellular telephone numbers.
sampling error (margin of error)
Polling error that arises based on the size of the sample relative to the whole. The "margin of error" is the chance that the sample does not accurately represent the whole. A typical sampling error is 1 - 3 percent.
social desirability effect
When respondents to a survey report what they expect the interviewer/survey wishes to hear rather than what they believe.
selection bias (polling)
Polling error that arises when the sample is not representative of the population because some opinions are overrepresented or underrepresented.
push poll
A polling technique in which the questions are designed to shape the respondent's opinion.
bandwagon effect
A shift in electoral support to the candidate whom public opinion polls report as the front-runner.
mass media
Print and digital forms of communication, including radio, television, newspapers, and the Internet, intended to deliver information to large audiences.
Network news that delivers information to a broad audience with the intention of objective, unbiased reporting.
Cable news that delivers information to a narrower target audience (conservatives, liberals, etc.) with the intention of providing commentary as well as unbiased reporting. Cable news has given consumers more choices, but many people do not realize that cable news engages in narrowcasting, that is, tailoring the presentation of the news to appeal to certain political viewpoints, assumptions, and biases. If you assume that Rachel Maddow (MSNBC) or Sean Hannity (Fox) are delivering "the news" rather than "political commentary" you are going to be very under and mis-informed.
niche journalism
News reporting devoted to a targeted audience based on a particular interest or ideology. More and more news is digital (Internet) and niche in format, which gives consumers more choices but also enables people to create "echo chambers" where they only hear arguments that confirm what they already think. The Internet and niche journalism allows for "selective exposure" wherein individuals choose the information they want to hear.
social media
Web and mobile-based technologies that are used to turn communication and delivery of news information into interactive dialogue among individuals, organizations, and communities. Facebook and Twitter are the two most used social media platforms to share news information. On the negative side, some individuals rely on social media for most of their news, which can easily result in the creation of an "echo chamber" where the user is only exposed to information and opinions they agree with. On the positive side, social media is an important tool of citizen journalists.
citizen journalism
News reported and distributed by citizens, rather than professional journalists.
agenda setting
The power of the media to bring public attention to particular issues and problems.
selection bias (news)
The tendency of the media to focus news coverage on only one aspect of an event or issue, avoiding coverage of other aspects. One way the media can shape our understanding of political events.
The power of the media to influence how events and issues are interpreted. A second way the media can shape our understanding of political events.
The ability of the media to prepare the public to bring specific criteria to mind when evaluating a politician or issue. A third way the media can shape our understanding of political events.
adversarial journalism
A form of reporting in which the media adopt a skeptical or even hostile posture toward the government and public officials.
outrage discourse
A form of commentary common on talk radio that aims to provoke a visceral response from the audience, usually in the form of anger, fear, and moral righteousness through the use of overgeneralization, sensationalism, misleading or inaccurate information, and ad hominem attacks (directed against a person rather than their idea). Some politicians have even modeled their rhetorical style and campaign strategy on such outrage discourse to great effect.