Collective Preferences in Democratic Politics: Opinion Surveys and the Will of the People

Front Cover
Cambridge University Press, Sep 8, 2003 - Political Science - 370 pages
Since so few people appear knowledgeable about public affairs, one might question whether collective policy preferences revealed in opinion surveys accurately convey the distribution of voices and interests in a society. This study, the first comprehensive treatment of the relationship between knowledge, representation, and political equality in opinion surveys, suggests some surprising answers. Knowledge does matter, and the way it is distributed in society can cause collective preferences to reflect disproportionately the opinions of some groups more than others. Sometimes collective preferences seem to represent something like the will of the people, but frequently they do not. Sometimes they rigidly enforce political equality in the expression of political viewpoints, but often they do not. The primary culprit is not any inherent shortcoming in the methods of survey research. Rather, it is the limited degree of knowledge held by ordinary citizens about public affairs. Accounting for these factors can help survey researchers, journalists, politicians, and concerned citizens better appreciate the pitfalls and possibilities for using opinion polls to represent the people s voice.
 

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User Review  - thcson - LibraryThing

This book bridges the gap between public opinion research and political theory in a very useful way. It focuses on the knowledge citizens possess and the way this knowledge becomes manifested in ... Read full review

Contents

Introduction
1
The Power of Noise
29
Who Speaks for the People?
59
The Impact of Information Effects
97
The Structure and Causes of Information Effects
145
The Temporal Dynamics of Information Effects
196
Opinion Surveys and the Will of the People
243
What Surveys Can Tell Us about Public Opinion
277
Political Knowledge Indices
314
Methodology
319
References
333
Index
363
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