Sociology | Politics and Public Opinion Research
S660 | 10314 | Brooks

Why, in some instances, has U.S. public opinion changed dramatically
in recent decades, whereas on other issues American attitudes appear
quite stable? What causal forces are capable of inducing more
extensive change in the policy preferences of the American public?
And what new methods, particularly those bringing an experimental
design to survey research, can be brought to bear to help answer
these questions?

We start by considering new theory and research that demonstrates
the significant, even massive, importance of mass policy preferences
for understanding sources of legitimacy and pressure on national
governments in developed democracies (including the United States).
We examine the results of past research on the organization of
policy attitudes in the U.S., moving to new work that identifies
experimental survey methods as a potential key to understanding
Americans’ seeming ambivalence toward government policy, including
with reference to welfare state and social policy programs. We then
consider how these methods may be used to evaluate hypotheses
concerning priming, framing, and persuasion effects, processes that
are central to both everyday discourse as well as to political
campaigns and social movement conflicts.

This seminar is for graduate students of the 2005 Social Research
Practicum, yet others interested in public opinion and political
research are welcome as well. Note that we will devote approximately
half our time to readings and discussions related to opinion and
political research, and the other portion to identifying and
developing research that will form the basis for the M.A. thesis.