Topics in American Politics: Roles of Polls and Public Opinion

Course Description

This course endeavors to explore the myriad uses of public opinion in leadership and decision-making. We will examine what public opinion research is, how it is conducted, and how it is used in a wide range of contexts, both public and private. We will reference actual case studies involving public opinion in political campaigns, constituency organizing, crisis management, and a variety of other contexts to provide an inside view of how opinion research is actually conducted and used. Specific questions will be addressed, such as: How does an incumbent politician formulate strategy and successfully communicate messages in the midst of a dirty politics/decidedly anti-incumbent senatorial campaign? What would you do if you were governor and your roads and highways needed improvements, but the public opposed a new gas tax? If you were a CEO of a large company and you had safety concerns about some of your products, how would you balance your corporate image and reputation against the independence from government influence? As a news organization interested in probing public concern on a variety of current social and political events, how do you decide what questions to ask, and how do you translate these results into news?

This course falls within the American Politics subfield.