Media and Public Opinion, BLHS 220-01

In this class Media and Public Opinion (MPO) each student works to gain proficiency with the rhetoric of public opinion and polling commonly encountered in the media but rarely understood by the common viewer. To gain this proficiency, the course concentrates on public opinion concepts, ways of measuring pubic opinion, and theories about pubic opinion formation, with special references to political topics and issues.

MPO, when it runs, is taught in a blended format. That is, students of Media and Public Opinion are expected to attend 4 face-to-face seminar style meetings and actively participate in all of the online components, conducted over the course of the semester, asynchronously.

The major topic areas in this 16-week course are addressed in four themed blocks:

  1. Introduction to Public Opinion: Understanding Public Opinion
  2. Influences on Public Opinion
  3. Reporting on Public Opinion
  4. Conclusion: Public Opinion and the Democratic order

The learning objectives are as follows:

  1. Understand of the major themes and debates in the study of public opinion.
  2. Understand the role of political socialization in opinion formation
  3. Evaluate the validity of a public opinion poll
  4. Possess the analytical skills necessary to view polling results and polling analysis critically
  5. Create a point of view with regard to the role of public opinion in democracies

This module is designed to help the students understand two outcomes of political socialization: party identification and political ideology. After completing the exercises, the student will be able to:

  1. summarize the groups differences that impact ideology, partisanship, interests and principles.
  2. construct data sets using demographics
  3. analyze a political typology

The goal is improve upon the existing pedagogical approach for the module is cumbersome and confusing. The module asks students to identify the groups and issues that make up a political ideology. The objective is to have students understand and explain that through the use of examples, that ideology, is based on beliefs and values, is not the same as party identification.

The learning objectives for the module were as follows:

Students will be able to:

  • Compare and evaluate polling data
  • Manipulate web based survey data
  • Design a simple research project

Previously, students were guided through exercises found in Clawson and Oxley’s Conducting Empirical Analysis: Public Opinion in Action. (2011). Students were tasked with completing a mini-project at the end of the course by collecting relevant data available on the SDA website: However, the use of the website was so awkward and time consuming, the project centered on just getting through the software rather than the meeting the mini project’s learning objectives.

The final product, a 3-5-page paper analyzing the results, was often delayed.

The course cancellation prohibited the testing of the revised approach.