Date of Award

12-2009

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. Emily Hauptmann

Second Advisor

Dr. Jacinda Swanson

Third Advisor

Dr. J. Kevin Corder

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Campus Only

Abstract

Political surveys and their results consume a large part of the political discourse. Political officials at many different levels of government have come to rely on them as representing their constituents' preferences on current issues. However, research indicates surveys may have shortcomings which can affect valued democratic qualities (equality, for one). This brings into question their ability to accurately represent the public view. Many United States citizens do not feel that they can affect government actions. Voting is the citizen's domain, often after the candidates have been chosen.

Political scientists have recognized and bemoaned the voter ignorance and apathy displayed prominently in survey research, but have for the most part ignored the causes. While they admit the shortcomings of surveys, they have not evaluated their use by politicians or attempted to measure surveys' effects relative to conceptions of democratic ideals within the broader society.

This thesis does not seek to establish our dependence on surveys as the origin of voter apathy; there are many contributing factors to political culture. It is the intention of this thesis to examine the shortcomings of surveys, how they are used, and the ways in which they result in undemocratic effects. A proposed plan for change is then introduced with the hope that it can remedy some of these ills.

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