Psychology and Brain Sciences | Topics in Psychology - Social Psychology of the Public Opinion
P457 | 15397 | Smith, E.

Prerequisite: PSY P320 or P304

“Bush approval ratings slip.”  “Poll shows public supports right to
abortion.”  “50% of U.S. public does not believe in evolution.”
Headlines like these appear almost daily in the news, suggesting the
importance and interest that we attach to public opinion on
important and controversial topics.  This course has two main
goals.  First, we will study the methods of public opinion research,
the ways poll-takers find out what the public thinks and why.  This
course will empower students to become informed and sophisticated
consumers of public opinion data, able to ask the right questions
about poll results they encounter in the news, and to draw their own
conclusions about what (if anything) those results mean.  Second, we
will study some of the basic social psychological principles that
shape the opinions that people hold.  Why do some people (and not
others) support President Bush, favor the right to abortion, or
believe in evolution?  Students will come to understand the roles of
self-interest, group memberships, personal experiences, and
conformity to the opinions of friends and neighbors, in the
processes by which people form and change their opinions.  Homework
assignments will involve simple analysis and interpretation of
actual data from recent surveys on social and political attitudes.

Enrollment limited to 20; taught by a mixture of lecture and class