Monday, April 12, 2010

ANES and Evaluations of Government

The ANES is seeking possible questions for its 2010-2012 Evaluations of Government and Society Study (details here).  These will be Internet-based surveys of a random sample of U.S. adults that focus on -- obviously -- how people evaluate government.  What better time, given the Tea Party environment, the growing Republican power, the overall disenchantment with government that we seem to be seeing?

According to the call for questions:
Specifically, we have in mind here attitudes about the performance of the Obama administration on the major issues of the day, evaluations of Congress and the Supreme Court, identification with and attitudes about the major political parties, and levels of interest in and engagement with national politics. This is primarily because these perceptions are unmistakably correlated with both presidential vote choice and levels of political participation. We intend to measure each of these topics at multiple points throughout the two-year period preceding the 2012 elections. However in addition to these subjects, we envision that each of these surveys would explore a particular aspect of these political perceptions.
We're talking five rolling cross-sectional waves with lots of potential to theoretically get at what's going on out there beyond the mere snapshot surveys presently available.

Of course, being the mass comm guy I am, I wonder what media questions should be included.  ANES tends to undervalue the media.  Sure, there are the basic exposure and attention items to broad-based media (TV news, newspapers, etc.), but rarely does it burrow down to the now vital network or program level.  If Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh are truly fueling an anti-government sentiment, then we need to get at exposure and response to those specific hosts, those programs, and even more broadly -- watching Fox News.
I asked what media items might be included and the answer was ... none, yet, so propose some.  So that's what I hope to do, but it's a little more difficult to generate a theoretical perspective versus a normative one, and ANES loves theory in its proposals.  So I'm gonna give this some thought because it would be nearly criminal to attempt a major undertaking to understand anti-government evaluations without taking these media folks, and their audience, into consideration. 

Suggestions welcome.

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