What Does the Public Know and Believe?

A. Myth of Volatile Public (Almond-Lippman Consensus)

1.   Public is 'moody'

2.   Lacks consistent or structured beliefs

3. Public has nonattitudes (P. Converse)

B. Rational Public (B. Page & R. Shapiro)

1.   Volatile public finding was incorrect

2.   Public has consistent preferences; stable views; responsive in consistent ways

3.   Public opinion is collectively stable, structured and responsive to information

C. Public Opinion Is Complex

Public support was strong in 1965-67, with a majority favoring US involvement and a majority in April 1966 (75%) saying the US should blockade NV harbors.

But support was equally strong to turn the ground war over to SV with: 71% favoring this in Nov 1966, 73% in April 1967, 77% in Feb 1968 (after Tet Offensive)

A majority did not favor immediate withdrawal.


D. General Ignorance, but Can Follow Cues

1.   "Don't Know's" are common

2.   Those polled often lack basic facts:

3.   Cognitive Misers; no need to accumulate information

4.   Take cues from experts to form opinions