What Amercns Rea Thk

Barry Sussman, Author Pantheon Books $18.95 (278p) ISBN 978-0-394-56303-9
Sussman, former public-opinion pollster for the Washington Post, here examines how polls in the last half-century have measured American attitudes on politics, religion, sex, race relations, foreign policy and economics, and how their findings have diminished representative government by inducing politicians to follow rather than lead. Polls can have a snowball effect, the author shows: a bon mot or blooper in a presidential-election debate, for example, can boost or drop a candidate's poll-rating a point or two, then add a few more positive or negative points after the media have intensified public awareness of what happened. The extensive tables and charts, and the author's interpretations of them help readers to track the ever-changing national ideology. Sussman's most arresting conclusion is that many voters will forego liberal values expressed in a poll in order to support a candidate considered most likely to improve or safeguard their own economic situation. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/25/1988
Release date: 05/01/1988
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