more on the ontology of public opinion

I’ve written before (here, here, here, and more)  on how we think about public opinion and where (and what) the “public” is in all this.

Recently the best-respected North Carolina polling firm, Public Policy Polling, conducted a poll asking Americans if they thought President Obama should be impeached for what he’s done thus far. 20% said yes, including 35% of Republicans. The comment:

I’m not clear exactly what ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ they are using to justify that position but there may be a certain segment of voters on both the right and the left these days that simply think the President doing things they don’t agree with is grounds for removal from office. I don’t think Obama has a lot to worry about on that front.

Well, duh! My guess is that two things are going on here. One is that impeachment has become less extreme to call for (if not to do) in part because of Clinton’s impeachment, which is widely viewed as essentially political antics, and in part because of the polarization of opinion communities. The other is that, when people are asked questions about which they have no opinion, they manufacture one on the spot. The modern individual is an opining subject; ask it a question and it will give you an answer. Particularly on a poll that uses Interactive Voice Response (IVR), where you’re supposed to push one button or another.

Author: andrewperrin

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

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