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Hard Choices, Easy Answers : Values, Information, and American Public Opinion - R. Michael Alvarez

Hard Choices, Easy Answers

Values, Information, and American Public Opinion

Paperback

Published: 1st July 2002
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Those who seek to accurately gauge public opinion must first ask themselves: Why are certain opinions highly volatile while others are relatively fixed? Why are some surveys affected by question wording or communicative medium (e.g., telephone) while others seem immune? In "Hard Choices, Easy Answers," R. Michael Alvarez and John Brehm develop a new theory of response variability that, by reconciling the strengths and weaknesses of the standard approaches, will help pollsters and scholars alike better resolve such perennial problems. Working within the context of U.S. public opinion, they contend that the answers Americans give rest on a variegated structure of political predispositions--diverse but widely shared values, beliefs, expectations, and evaluations.

Alvarez and Brehm argue that respondents deploy what they know about politics (often little) to think in terms of what they value and believe. Working with sophisticated statistical models, they offer a unique analysis of not just what a respondent is likely to choose, but also how variable those choices would be under differing circumstances. American public opinion can be characterized in one of three forms of variability, conclude the authors: ambivalence, equivocation, and uncertainty. Respondents are sometimes ambivalent, as in attitudes toward abortion or euthanasia. They are often equivocal, as in views about the scope of government. But most often, they are uncertain, sure of what they value, but unsure how to use those values in political choices.

"A provocative and important statement about the nature and functioning of mass opinion... Alvarez and Brehm bring a sophisticated methodological arsenal to bear on enduring questions of public opinion. They have produced an invaluable study of the structural underpinnings of political attitudes, one that is deserving of serious consideration from a broad range of social scientists."--Howard Lavine, Perspectives on Politics

List of Figuresp. vii
List of Tablesp. xi
Acknowledgmentsp. xiii
A Fickle Public?p. 1
Theory and Methodsp. 13
Predispositionsp. 15
Why Does Political Information Matter?p. 27
Ambivalence, Uncertainty, and Equivocationp. 52
Mass Public Opinionp. 65
Ambivalent Attitudes: Abortion and Euthanasiap. 67
Uncertainty and Racial Attitudesp. 100
Equivocationp. 125
Masses and Elitesp. 149
Mass Opinion and Representationp. 151
Do Elites Experience Ambivalence Where Masses Do Not?p. 194
Politics, Psychology, and the Survey Responsep. 216
Notesp. 225
Referencesp. 233
Indexp. 243
Table of Contents provided by Syndetics. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780691096353
ISBN-10: 069109635X
Audience: Tertiary; University or College
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 264
Published: 1st July 2002
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 23.62 x 15.85  x 1.45
Weight (kg): 0.39