Breaking Through Political Noise to Change Public Opinion

Philip Converse’s seminal 1964 article “The Nature of Belief Systems in Public Opinion” changed the conversation about the way voters form policy preferences. Converse claimed most people’s “belief systems” are highly unorganized, and his thesis lends support for the idea that the mass public relies on elites for guidance in forming policy opinions.

While this argument holds across many different policy debates, it is particularly apparent when it comes to the issue of global warming.  New numbers released by Rasmussen Reports this week found that 40 percent of respondents blame global warming on human activity, while 44 percent blame long-term planetary trends.

At first glance it appears the public is becoming less sympathetic to the man-made global warming claim.  But when you look closer at the numbers, that’s not quite the case. While respondents remain skeptical about the man-made effects of climate change, there has actually been a seven-point increase in the number of respondents who “feel human activity is causing global warming.” And while 44 percent blame long-term trends for climate change, this is actually the lowest level measured since June of last year.

These conflicting numbers reinforce Converse’s thesis, showing just how disorderly the public’s thinking is when it comes to the issue of climate change. On one hand, global warming activism has clearly had an effect on mass opinion. Yet polls suggest voter’s belief systems remain malleable.

At the White House Writers Group we realize sometimes breaking through the political noise and understanding complicated policy prescriptions requires a little help. But by determining the best message, using the appropriate tools, and reaching the right audience, we can help you move public opinion in your direction.