These are more “outtakes” from the teachers’ manual that I worked on last year. For various reasons, having mostly to do with space considerations, many of the activities I developed for this project got left out of the final version, so I have the publisher’s permission to post ideas here. Put all together this is much more than any teacher would want to do, but one of them might be just what the government teacher is looking for
Also included is a PowerPoint, on the idea of the “Spiral of Silence”. I’ve done my best to avoid using anything under copyright.
1/ To open the discussion of public opinion and polling there are many websites that show poll results, or the polls themselves:
WWW.Gallup.com (has constantly changing videos that would work well to begin a class)
Realclearpolitics.com (has a compendium of interesting polls for students to sort through, or with which to begin the class)
Zogby has excellent questions that would work well for analysis in class.
2// For homework on Day 1 you could assign these websites giving more information on the famous Literary Digest Poll. There is still some dispute as to the most important reason that it went wrong. Often it is said that the sample was not random, but others argue that the bigger problem was skewed returns—people who are angry tend to send things back, people who are mildly contented don’t always get around to it. The arguments over the Literary Digest polls give the teacher a good chance to get at some of the details in polling that are crucial to accuracy.
3// Have students investigate the websites of partisan polling companies might also make for an interesting class discussion to determine the differences.
Democratic polling company:
Or Republican polling Company
And/or Students might also find it interesting to investigate the websites of some major polling companies that do both commercial and political work such as
Students are often surprised to realize how much polling is behind not only candidates, and their positions and races, but behind the products they use as well.
4// You could also consider showing students a few minutes of a focus group, and have students consider the special uses of this offshoot of polling, which has proved so useful in understanding why voting decisions are made or how a candidate may want to position him or herself, or how an issue might be framed.
A several focus groups can be found on C-SPAN,
5// You could assign an article on the famous (infamous?) holocaust poll in which people appeared not to believe the Holocaust took place, but which probably better showed the importance of the phrasing of questions asked:
You could have students read this article and then write two poll questions one that would elicit a neutral answer and one that might lead the respondent in some way.
6// Since students all have cell phones, they may be interested in the problem, mentioned in the Patterson text, of whether the growing use of cell phones will begin to make it difficult to use telephone calls as the basis of randomly selected samples. Have students investigate this problem and draw some conclusions