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Measuring Public Opinion—Including Your Own

Inform Yourself

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Consider opinion on current issues. Visit the Polling Report (www.pollingreport.com) and click on a topic. For example, what percentage of Americans approve of the president’s job performance? How has that figure changed over the last year? Next look for polls on same-sex marriage. What percentage of Americans approves of allowing gay men/lesbians to marry and what percentage opposes?
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Compare multiple surveys on the same topic. An important clearinghouse for election polls is Real Clear Politics (www.realclearpolitics.com). Click “Polls” and then “Latest Polls.” Each day, you can find the results of opinion polls that have been conducted, often including several on the same topic. This website has become increasingly important because it aggregates the results of so many surveys. How much do the results of different polls on the same topic vary? Does aggregating the results from many surveys make the findings more reliable?
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Watch a video about opinion on the economy. Watch the Pew Research Center’s video on “The Lost Decade of the Middle Class” (www.pewsocialtrends.org/2012/08/22/video-lost-decade-of-the-middle-class/). Then click on the report with the same name on the top right of the page. Who do Americans blame for the economic losses of the middle class? Which groups are most optimistic about their future economic prospects? Which are least optimistic?
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Connect with Others

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What is your political ideology? First take the very short political quiz. What was your result? Next take the Pew Research Center’s political typology quiz. How are your results for the two quizzes similar or different? Were you surprised by the findings? How would you redesign the questions to better measure political ideology?

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