MODEL ANSWERS – Lecture 6
1. Give two reasons why internet polls are not accurate representations of what the overall public thinks.
“… [Y]ou can vote as many times as you want, and … only the more wealthy who have the internet can vote.”
2. Explain what an exit poll is, and why it may be too inaccurate to predict the outcome in a very close election.
“In an exit poll every tenth person is asked after voting how he or she voted. The problem is many people won’t answer truthfully, and so in a close election an exit poll can’t really be trusted.”
3. The media talks about political views as though they are on a straight line: the “left” is liberal, the “center” is “moderate”, and the “right” is “conservative”. Why might a circle be a better model than a straight line?
“The circle model is a better and more realistic model than the straight-line model because it depicts the convergence of the views of liberals and conservatives as they become increasingly radical. A heart-shaped model would be even better, however, because it would also depict the black hole that moderates fall into as they move closer and closer to the center.”
“U.S. v. Bajakajian is [a] case in which conservatives and liberals were on the same side while moderates were on the opposing side. Th issue was whether the government could legitimately seize all of the money that Bajakajian was illegally trying to take out of the country. The Supreme Court decided in favor of Bajakajian with the most liberal judges and Justice Thomas, the most conservative justice on the Supreme Court, deciding in favor of Bajakajian on the basis of Amendment VIII.”
4. The fastest growing age group of voters in America is: (a) under 18; (b) between 18 and 35; (c) over 65; (d) over 100. What is the significance of this demographic fact?
“Over 65. This means that campaigns and legislation will concentrate more on things such as free prescription drugs and the privatization of Medicare.”
5. The best single predictor of how a group votes on Election Day is _____________. Explain.
“How often they attend church or house of worship. In general, the more a group prays, the more conservative that group votes, although there are many individual exceptions. Every candidate shows off his religion near election day.”
“The more a group prays the more conservative that group will vote.”
“[T]he best predictor of how people will vote on Election Day is the state of the economy. Everything these days in politics … has to do with money ….”
6. Children argue with their parents about politics, but usually vote as they did. E.g., children of Democrats usually become Democrats themselves. Why?
“If someone always told his kids that Republicans steal money from the poor, then the children would grow up thinking that and would probably become a Democrat.”
“Schools also have some influence in direct and indirect ways.”
7. Suppose Senator John McCain, who almost beat George W. Bush for the Republican nomination in 2000, commissions a poll in December that shows McCain having more public support for winning the presidency than Bush in November 2004. Should Bush then step aside so that McCain can be the Republican nominee? If not, why not?
“First the obvious, McCain commissioned the poll. The poll could easily be twisted so the answers favor McCain over Bush.”
“No, the poll was taken in December and Election Day is not for another year. … Public opinion can change within a month, let alone a year.”
“I don’t think so! McCain is being a sore loser and bully. …”
“I believe that this situation depends on the views of the people polled regarding the Democratic nominee ….”
“I believe that Bush should step aside if the polls indicate similar opinion later. … [I]f McCain has more support, Bush could step aside to preserve the Republican Presidency.”
8. Design a two-question poll about the death penalty that is slanted in order to maximize a response against the death penalty. Then design poll questions about the death penalty slanted in order to maximize support for it.
Against the Death Penalty
“Is it right for the government to murder people?”
“Do you think murder is a crime? Do you think the death penalty is murder?”
“Do you support legislation to hunt down and slaughter the criminals in our country?”
“Do you believe that the right way to punish killers is to commit the crime they’re being punished for?”
“Do you believe that an innocent person should be placed on death row?”
“Do you think someone with a mental illness should receive the death penalty”
For the Death Penalty
“Would you feel safe knowing that murderer, who has served out his/her prison sentence, or is on parole, could be living in your neighborhood?”
“Are you in favor of your tax money being spent to pay for the room and board for life for a convicted death row murderer?”
“Should we kill people that deserve to die?”
“Do you want convicted murderers to be able to kill more people?”
“Do you think serial killers should be on death row?”
“Do you believe that terrorists should get the death penalty?”
“According to a recent … survey, 80% of Americans support capital punishment. Do you agree …?”
9. The most reliable poll about the political prospects of the president and his party is his “approval rating” (see handout). Why is this poll more reliable than most polls?
“The question is simple enough and easy to understand ….”
“This poll is more reliable than most polls because it isn’t slanted in any way. …”
“This poll is more reliable then others because it is nearly impossible to slant the questions.”
10. Pick a high and low point in Bush’s approval ratings over the past 2.5 years and suggest reasons for his popularity or lack of popularity.
“His approval/disapproval ratio reached a low in September 2003, probably due to ebbing support for the reconstruction of Iraq, and weariness of almost daily casualty reports.”
“Presidents have their highest approval ratings right after national tragedies, or during wars.”
11. Do polls have too much influence in American politics, or do they have a valuable role? Explain with an example.
“People pay too much attention to [polls] …. The polls indicated that McClintock did not have a chance to Bustamante so conservatives around the country rallied to support Mr. Schwarzenegger, seeing he had a ‘better chance.’ Well, to many people’s surprise, now that the election is over and we see the results, McClintock could have beaten Bustamante and could have been the conservative governor [of California] right now.”
“Many Americans vote for who they think will win and not for who they thing should win. … If people had just voted for who they thought should win instead of for who they thought would win then Alan Keyes might have won the election.”
“… I think polls sometimes can be interesting to note and do show accurate results on occasion, but overall have way too much influence in our government.”
“Polls have a valuable role in American politics because they let politicians have an idea as to what some Americans think regarding issues and their view of how well or how poorly politicians are doing in their jobs.”
“I believe that polls influence politics too much. … People like to side with a winner. That is a simple fact. … If the polls show that Bush has a high disapproval rating, not only will those who think that vote against, those who see that will think ‘well, he certainly isn’t doing a good job, so he probably won’t be around long. I think I’ll go find out what other options I have.’”
12. Would the Democrats have a better chance of beating Bush in 2004 by nominating a liberal or a “moderate”? Explain your answer.
A “moderate Democrat loses some of the liberal votes and Bush probably wins the election.”
“I think that the Democrats would have a better chance with a fairly far-out liberal candidate. … [A]ny Democratic candidate must present himself as being someone who is different from Bush, because otherwise people will vote for Bush since his is already president and is thus a known quantity.”
“Moderates can be wolves in sheep’s clothing.”
“Moderates … would probably receive more positive media coverage.”
go find out what other options I have.’”