CoverIntroductionKey Civics and Government ConceptsDefining Critical Media LiteracyTopic 1. Foundations of the United States Political System1.1 Social Media Policies and Community Standards on YouTube, Twitter, TikTok and More1.2 The Internet as a Public Utility1.3  21st Century Women STEM Innovators1.4 Media Coverage of Kings, Queens, and Royal Families1.5 Representations of Native Americans in Films, Local History Publications, and School MascotsTopic 2. The Development of United States Government2.1 Declarations of Independence on Social Media2.2 Media Marketing and Government Regulation of Self-Driving Cars and Electric Vehicles2.3 Representations of and Racism Toward Black Americans in the Media2.4 Political Debates Through Songs from Hamilton: An American Musical2.5 Bill of Rights on TwitterTopic 3. Institutions of United States Government3.1: Hollywood Movies About the Branches of Government3.2: Writing an Impeachment Press Release3.3: Members of Congress' Use of Social Media3.4: Political Impacts of Public Opinion Polls3.5: Website Design for New Political PartiesTopic 4. The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizens4.1: Immigration in the News4.2: Portrayals of Immigrants in Television and Film4.3: COVID-19 Information Evaluation4.4: Women Political Leaders in the Media4.5: Online Messaging by Special Interest Groups4.6: Digital Games for Civic Engagement4.7: Social Media and the Elections4.8: Images of Political Leaders and Political Power4.9: Media Spin in the Coverage of Political Debates4.10: Celebrities' Influence on Politics4.11: Political Activism Through Social Media4.12: Media Recruitment of Public Sector Workers4.13 Deciding What Books Students Read in School4.14: Images of Teachers and Teaching4.15: For Whom Is and Could Your School Be Named4.16: Representing Trans Identities4.17: Media Framing of the Events of January 6, 20214.18: Music as Protest Art4.19: PACs, Super PACs, and Unions in the Media4.20 Brands and PoliticsTopic 5. The Constitution, Amendments, and Supreme Court Decisions5.1: Prohibition in the Media5.2: The Equal Rights Amendment on Twitter and Other Social Media5.3: Civil War Era News Stories and Recruitment Advertisements5.4: Representations of Gender and Race on U.S. Currency5.5: The Equality Act on Twitter5.6: Reading Supreme Court Dissents Aloud5.7: Television Cameras in CourtroomsTopic 6. The Structure of State and Local Government6.1: Native American Mascots and Logos6.2: A Constitution for the Internet6.3: Military Recruitment and the Media6.4: Your Privacy on Social Media6.5: Pandemic Policy Information in the Media6.6: Gendered Language in Media Coverage of Women in Politics6.7: Gender-Neutral Marketing of Toys 6.8: Environmental Campaigns Using Social Media6.9: Trusted Messengers, the Media, and the Pandemic6.10: Online Campaigning for Political Office6.11: Advertising the Lottery Online and In Print6.12: Local Governments, Social Media and Digital Democracy6.13: Protecting the CommonsTopic 7. Freedom of the Press and News/Media Literacy7.1: Press Freedom in the United States and the World7.2: Objectivity and Reporting the News from All Sides7.3: Investigative Journalism and Social Change7.4: News Photographs & Newspaper Design7.5: How Reporters Report Events7.6: Recommendation Algorithms on Social Media Platforms7.7: YouTube Content Creators7.8: Fake News Investigation and Evaluation7.9: Paywalls and Access to Online News7.10: Critical Visual Analysis of Online and Print Media7.11: Memes and TikToks as Political Cartoons7.12: Women Reporters in the Movies7.13: Design a 21st Century Indie Bookstore 7.14: Greenwashing and the Media

3.4: Political Impacts of Public Opinion Polls

Public Opinion Polls have become an prominent feature of American politics. A poll is a survey given to a small sample of chosen respondents as a way to reveal what larger numbers of people think about a political issue or election candidate.

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Poll results are often widely reported in both print and online media. They are meant to provide information about people and politics that would not be readily available in other ways.

As a matter of media literacy, it is important to understand what polls can and cannot tell us about what people want from government or who people want to elect to public office. There are two important factors to keep in mind.

First, ideally polls support democracy. The information they provide contributes to everyone’s knowledge and understanding of politics and policy. As the Pew Research Center crucially noted, “in nations without robust polling, the head of government can simply decree citizens’ wants and needs instead” (Key Things to Know about Election Polling in the United States, August 5, 2020, para. 1).

Second, in reality polls have limitations and shortcomings. Any poll is just a snapshot in time and may not reflect people’s changing attitudes or behaviors. For example, a person may complete a poll saying they intend to vote in an election and then decide not to. Or, a person may not answer a poll honestly, saying they voted for one candidate when in fact they voted for another candidate instead. For these reasons, polls may miss the levels of support or opposition for issues or candidates actually present in society.

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In the following activities, you will gain firsthand experience in conducting and reporting public opinion polls and then you will explore what happens when public opinion polls do not represent the opinion of the public. 

Activity 1: Conduct an Opinion Poll on an Issue of Interest

Activity 2: Conduct an Opinion Poll on Election Voting or a Political Candidate

Activity 3: Evaluate how Election Polls can be Misleading

Designing for Learning: Student-Created Activity Example

Political Impacts of Public Opinion Polls Podcast

Additional Resources

Connecting to the Standards

  • Massachusetts Civics & Government Standards
    • Explain the process of elections in the legislative and executive branches and the process of nomination/confirmation of individuals in the judicial and executive branches (Massachusetts Curriculum Framework for History and Social Science) [8.T3.4]
  • ISTE Standards
    • Knowledge Constructor
      • 3b: Students evaluate the accuracy, perspective, credibility and relevance of information, media, data, or other resources.
      • 3d: Students build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions.
    • Computational Thinker
      • 5b. Students collect data or identify relevant data sets, use digital tools to analyze them, and represent data in various ways to facilitate problem-solving and decision-making.
    • Creative Communicator
      • 6a: Students choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication.
      • 6b: Students create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.
      • 6d: Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for the intended audiences.
  • DLCS Standards
    • Interpersonal and Societal Impact (CAS.c)
    • Digital Tools (DTC.a)
    • Collaboration and Communication (DTC.b)
    • Research (DTC.c)
  • English Language Arts > History/Social Studies Common Core Standards
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.7
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.8
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.7
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.8
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.7
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.8
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.9
  • English/Language Arts Common Core Standards