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By Scott L. Althaus

Given that so few humans look familiar with public affairs, one could query no matter if collective coverage personal tastes published in opinion surveys effectively express the distribution of voices and pursuits in a society. Scott Althaus' accomplished research of the connection among wisdom, illustration, and political equality (in opinion surveys) ends up in magnificent solutions. wisdom does subject, and how it really is distributed in society may cause collective personal tastes to mirror reviews disproportionately. for that reason, the learn may also help survey researchers, newshounds, politicians, and anxious voters larger delight in the issues and potentials of using opinion polls to symbolize the people's voice.

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Controlling for information effects in collective preferences can also clarify future trends in surveyed opinion. Gaps between the collective opinions of ill- and well-informed citizens tend to persist over time, but once these groups arrive at a similar mix of opinions, information effects usually remain small. As a result, simulated measures of fully informed opinion are 0521820995c01 0 521 82099 5 Introduction June 10, 2003 17:30 25 quite accurate when predicting that collective policy preferences will remain stable.

Converse (1990) describes this process using the metaphor of signal and noise: when aggregated, the more or less random responses from ill-informed respondents (the “noise”) should tend to cancel each other out, leaving the nonrandom views of informed respondents (the “signal”) reflected in the means of collective opinion distributions. ” They argue that respondents’ opinions have both random and nonrandom components, and when aggregated, the underlying central tendencies of these opinions become reflected in the aggregate parameters – means, marginal percentages, and majority and plurality choices – of collective opinions.

14, emphasis in original) While Page and Shapiro’s book was conceived as a direct response to the Michigan School’s portrayal of an ignorant and capricious public (Berelson, Lazarsfeld, and McPhee 1954; Campbell, Converse et al. 1960; Converse 1964, 1970), in a larger sense it is one of the most recent (and most empirical) contributions to a venerable dialogue about the extent to which ordinary citizens can and should play a direct role in democratic governance. Arising among the ancient Greeks as a controversy about the wisdom of collective decisions, this debate simmered through the centuries until it was actively resurrected among the political philosophers of 18thcentury France and England (Habermas 1989; Palmer 1936).

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