Cover

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Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Acknowledgments

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p. vii

The essays in this volume were first presented at the Breaux Symposium held on the LSU campus in October 2009. Each year, the Breaux Symposium brings together leading scholars, journalists, and political professionals to discuss an issue of national importance. I was given the opportunity to organize the 2009 symposium...

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Introduction: The Meaning and Measure of Public Opinion

Charlie Cook

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pp. 1-10

Unquestionably, polls in our society and particularly in the world of politics and the media have become both ubiquitous and enormously influential. The combination of technology lowering the once formidable barriers to entry into polling and the increasingly insatiable appetite of cable network news and the Internet for...

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1. Public Opinion Polling in a Digital Age: Meaning and Measurement

Kirby Goidel

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pp. 11-27

Since 1936 when George Gallup bested the Literary Digest straw poll, public opinion in American politics has been synonymous with scientifically based opinion polling. Public opinion, in this respect, has been defined primarily as the aggregation of privately held individual opinions as revealed through carefully constructed questions...

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2. Public Opinion Polling and Its Problems

Scott Keeter

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pp. 28-53

When the news broke on January 21, 1998, that President Bill Clinton might have had an affair with a White House intern, there was a nearly unanimous judgment among the pundit class that, if the allegations were true, Clinton would be forced from office. The public, it was said, would not accept his behavior. Shortly thereafter...

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3. Can I Trust This Poll?

Mark Blumenthal

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pp. 54-70

What makes a public opinion poll “scientific?” If you had asked that question of a random sample of pollsters twenty-three years ago when I started my first job at a polling firm, you would have heard far more agreement than today. Now, many more pollsters are asking fundamental questions about the best practices of our profession, and their growing uncertainty makes it ever harder to answer...

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4. Poll-Centered News Coverage: Causes and Consequences

Johanna Dunaway

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pp. 71-84

If the accuracy of polls is increasingly in question, why do they play such a prominent role in news coverage of campaigns and policy? As several of the preceding chapters note, we are faced with a poll-inundated information environment wherein polls of varying types and quality are available to the public with little or no filtering. The result is a “perfect storm” of growing public and media reliance...

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5. (Un)Numbered Voices? Reconsidering the Meaning of Public Opinion in a Digital Age

Susan Herbst

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pp. 85-98

It is a common irony that the concepts we view as fundamental to democracy are the very ones we find nearly impossible to define. For hundreds of years, statesmen and scholars have debated the meanings of “representation” and “citizenship,” for example, coming to their own conclusions but certainly not settling the issues. “Public...

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6. Too Much Talk, Not Enough Action? Political Expression in a Digital Age

Kirby Goidel , Ashley Kirzinger , Michael Xenos

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pp. 99-114

In contemporary politics, individual citizens have more opportunities than ever before to express political opinions across a wider range of venues. For many observers, this has all the making of a democratic resurgence. The democratic dialogue is more open and free flowing, and political movements can emerge from the ground up in ways unimaginable just ten years ago. Operating independently...

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7. Alternatives to Polling

Anna Greenberg

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pp. 115-123

I enter this conversation about the future of public opinion polling with academic training in survey research methodology but also largely as a practitioner, or a “pollster.” My clients are candidates running for office as well as advocacy groups, whose primary interest in public opinion lies in its role as a tool to help them win elections or influence public policy. They place a high premium on the accuracy...

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8. Transitioning into a New Era of Public Opinion Research

Kirby Goidel

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pp. 124-136

When we first began this book project, we considered several different titles: Public Opinion at the Gallows or Dewey Wins! Polling’s Next Great Catastrophe. We decided these titles were too alarmist. There can be little question that public opinion research is going through its most significant transition since telephone interviews replaced face-to-face interviews as the primary data collection mode...

Contributors

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pp. 137-140

Index

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pp. 141-146