[lit-ideas] Re: interaction of polls and public opinion

  • From: JimKandJulieB@xxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 11 Nov 2006 05:37:14 EST

Sorry to be dense, but I never did well in math.  Does this mean that  you're 
saying that what is traditionally taught about probabilities and stats  isn't 
relevant to politics?  (Btw, here in Missouri there was the  largest turn-out 
of "young voters" (I'm thinking that must refer to something  like 18 -21 or 
so; not sure of the #'s) in 40 years.
I suspect a good deal of that has nothing to do with ideology, but that  
there were a lot of teenage boys who signed up having no clue they would have 
go overseas and actually be shot or blown up, and a lot of young women who 
don't  want their now young men to go overseas and be shot or bombed.  
How do you create a graph which cross-references voting by age,  ethnicity,  
efficiency of voting machines, weather, straight ballot or not,  wording 
andplacement of issues, location, etc?  Maybe, John, what you're  saying is 
are simply too many variables....
On the other hand -- I always think of the pendulum swing (and I have no  
idea how this would relate to what have said, John, but I'd love to know); a  
theory of sorts, even though only anecdotal in large measurements, though there 
doubtlessly studies out there I've never looked up or run across, that each  
generation rebels against the generation before it.  (There's a  dangling 
participle there somewhere.)   Do you remember (or ever see?)  a TV sitcom 
"All in the Family"?  Michael J. Fox played a high  school or young college guy 
whose parents were the prototypical flower children  complete w/ being jailed 
for protesting, etc.  Fox was the ultimate  Commercialist prodigy -- 
following Wall St., valuing money above all...rabid  Conversatism (how's that 
irony?).  Parents were visceral  dem's.   I believe (stand me corrected if I'm 
wrong, someone),  that this show aired during the Reagan administration.   One 
would  suppose that the baby boomers' generation's children may perhaps be 
 hard-line conservatives. 
Maybe I should start feeding my girls Rep propaganda...
Julie Krueger
========Original  Message========
Subj: [lit-ideas] Re: interaction of polls and public opinion  Date: 
10/24/2006 9:07:50 P.M. Central Standard Time  From: _john.mccreery@xxxxxxxxxx 
(mailto:john.mccreery@xxxxxxxxx)   To: _lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx 
(mailto:lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx)   Sent on:    
On 10/25/06, Eric Yost  <eyost1132@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> If people watch  televised poll results that indicate 30
> percent of the public believes  X, will that cause an upward
> shift in the percentage who believe X? Is  there a critical
> polling mass (50 percent? 60 percent?) when a polled  opinion
> about X multiplies itself? And how does the frequency of
>  publicizing polls alter future polled opinion?
> I bet John  McCreery knows something about this.

There may be such research.  If so, I'm unfamiliar with it. A couple of
things I have read recently do  suggest, however, that the "critical
mass" metaphor may not be appropriate in  discussing social phenomena.

One critical flaw in the metaphor may be the  assumption that there is
only one tipping point, as there is when a nuclear  exposion occurs.
Anthropologist/marketing guru Grant McCracken suggests in  his new book
_Flocks and Flows_ that cultural phenomena must typically  survive five
to six tipping points en route from the chaos of innovation  to
becoming conventional wisdom. At each of those tipping points the  meme
in question must break through and appeal to a wider audience than  the
narrower group to which it first appealed.

A similar point is made  in one of the books on network analysis that I
am currently reading as  background for my current research project (if
anyone is interested I will  try to locate the particular book in
question; at the moment it isn't to  hand). The topic is the
application of network analysis to explanation of  crowd behavior. The
specific question is why some bar fights fizzle out while  others
result in full-scale riots. Here, again, a critical issue appears  to
be the way in which the crowd is structured.

Assume, for the sake  of argument, that people can be ranked in order
of propensity to become  involved in a bar fight, so that 1s tend to
start fights, 2s tend to join in  immediately, 3s stay out until a
certain proportion of the crowd is already  fighting, 4s stay out
longer, etc. A single 1 can start a riot if there are  enough 2s who
will leap in to create a fight big enough for the 3s and then  the 4s
to get involved as well. But in a crowd in which there aren't  enough
2s the fight fizzles out.

The thrust of both of these analyses  is that there isn't a single
"critical mass" threshold. There is, instead, a  range of thresholds,
each a function of the structure of the population in  question and
(the other side of that coin) the propensities of the  individuals who
comprise it.



John  McCreery
The Word Works, Ltd., Yokohama, JAPAN

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