Leading questions

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  • This program examines the power of professional pollsters to influence public opinion. Public opinion pollsters and market researchers serve virtually every facet of American culture. Nearly everyone-from the makers of cake mix to television executives and candidates for public office-seeks to become the intimate of our private opinions for the purposes of their own strategies. In the hands of campaign consultants, the sophisticated techniques of market research become tools of political persuasion and "leaders" wind up finding out what we think, so they can tell us what they think is what we think, too. "If the toothpaste doesn't live up to your dreams, you are out a dollar fifty-seven," notes one observer. "With political candidates, the stakes are much higher.


  • Encoded with permission for digital streaming by Films Media Group on Feb. 07, 2007.
  • Films on Demand is distributed by Films Media Group for Films for the Humanities & Sciences, Cambridge Educational, Meridian Education, and Shopware.
  • Mode of access: Internet.
  • System requirements: FOD playback platform.


  • Brief History of Polls and Surveys in America (1:45) -- Consumer Opinion: a Valuable Commodity (2:23) -- BehaviorScan: The Ultimate Survey (4:08) -- Can a Moister Cake Mix Make You a Better Mom? (3:55) -- Reason vs. Emotion: Selling a President (5:22) -- Using Technology to Measure American Values (3:45) -- Using Technology to Fine Tune Political Communication (2:24) -- Using Product Marketing Techniques to Get Votes (4:54) -- Contrived Controversy: How Dukakis Lost 1988 Presidential Election (6:56) -- Love and the Family: Emotional Values as Marketing Symbols (3:38) -- Comparative vs. Negative Advertising (1:57) -- Nielsen: the Most Important Poll in America (5:48) -- Emotion as a Measurement of Presidential Leadership (2:09) -- Restructuring Political Conversation (5:54)
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