Synopses & Reviews
Politics is a trial in which those in government - and those who aspire to be - make proposals, debate alternatives, and pass laws. Then the jury of public opinion decides. It likes the proposals or actions or it does not. It trusts the actors or it doesn't. It moves, always at the margin, and then those who benefit from the movement are declared winners. This book is about that public opinion response. Its most basic premise is that although pubic opinion rarely matters in a democracy, public opinion change is the exception. Public opinion rarely matters, because the public rarely cares enough to act on its concerns or preferences. Change happens only when the threshold of normal public inattention is crossed. When public opinion changes, governments rise or fall, election are won or lost, old realities give way to new demands.
Tracking trends in American public opinion, this study examines moods of public policy over time. James Stimson looks at shorter term movements as the public approves or disapproves politicians, trusts or distrusts government. His book is distinctive in that it focuses on determining the unobserved true opinion that lies beneath superficial polls. It argues that public opinion is decisive in American politics and identifies the citizens who produce influential change as a relatively small subset of the American electorate.
This book tracks movement in American public opinion.
About the Author
James A. Stimson is the Raymond Dawson Distinguished Bicentennial Professor of Political Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is a former President and Treasurer of the American Political Science Association. He has authored and co-authored numerous books including Yeas and Neys: Normal Decision-Making in the U.S. House of Representatives, Issue Evolution: Race and the Reconstruction of American Politics, Public Opinion in America, and The Macro Polity. Professor Stimson has served as Editor of Political Analysis, and has served on the editorial board of journals such as the American Journal of Political Science and the Journal of Politics. He has authored many articles published in major journals of political science and is the recipient of various awards for his distinguished scholarship.
Table of Contents
Part I. Preface: The Shutdown: 1. On point of view; 2. On how the book came to be written; 3. On truth, objectivity, and spin; Part II. Opinion Flows: 4. A theory of public opinion; 5. Some postulates about opinion movement; 6. Design of the book; Part III. What the Public Wants of Government: 7. Thinking about public opinion; 8. Absolute and relative; 9. Means and ends; 10. What are the considerations: policy domains: some newer policy conflicts; Part IV. Left and Rights Movements in Preference: 11. The issue evolution theory of issue alignment; 12. Three issue evolutions; 13. Preference for liberalism and conservatism; 14. Ideology; Part V. The Great Horse Race: 15. The lore of presidential campaigns: three stories; 16. Do the polls predict presidential elections?; 17. So, what really matters?; 18. Candidate debates; Part VI. Between the Campaigns: 19. The presidency; 20. U.S. Senators; 21. Governors; 22. Trust in government; 23. Is approval generic?; Part VII. On Politics at the Margin: 24. A tale of three elections; 25. Who accounts for change in American politics?; 26. The rhythms of opinion: a reconsideration; 27. On marginal democracy.