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Public Opinion

Book Description

Public Opinion is a comprehensive and multidisciplinary examination of public opinion in the United States. Drawing on scholarship in political science, psychology, sociology, and communications, the authors explore the nature of political and social attitudes in the United States and how these attitudes are shaped by various institutions, with an emphasis on mass media. The book also serves as a provocative starting point for the discussion of citizen moods, political participation, and voting behavior. Feature boxes and illustrations throughout help students understand all aspects of the elusive phenomenon we call public opinion. The third edition has been thoroughly revised and updated to reflect how public opinion is studied today, and to incorporate current data and debates. The book now contains two revised and reframed theory chapters—“Group Membership and Public Opinion” and “Public Opinion and Social Process”—as well as new coverage of the influence of online and social media on public opinion, especially in issue opinions and campaigns.

Table of Contents

  1. Cover
  2. Title Page
  3. Copyright
  4. Contents
  5. List of Illustrations and Boxes
  6. Preface
  7. Part One: Introducing Public Opinion
    1. 1 | The Meanings of Public Opinion
      1. Why Study Public Opinion?
      2. The Meaning of Public Opinion
      3. Dimensions of Public Opinion
      4. Which Meaning of Public Opinion Is Best?
    2. 2 | The History of Public Opinion
      1. Why Does History Matter?
      2. Pre-Enlightenment Philosophies of Public Opinion
      3. Public Opinion in the Age of Revolution
      4. Public Opinion Theories: The Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries
      5. The Social History of Public Opinion: Expression and Measurement
      6. Pre-nineteenth-century Opinion Communication Techniques
    3. 3 | Methods for Studying Public Opinion
      1. Survey Research: Aggregating Individual Opinions
      2. Focus Groups: Using Group Dynamics to Measure Public Opinion
      3. Experimental Methods and Opinion Research
      4. Content Analysis of Mass Media: “Archives” of Public Opinion
      5. Conclusion
  8. Part Two: Theories of Public Opinion
    1. 4 | Public Opinion and Democratic Theory
      1. Why Theories?
      2. Meanings and Mechanisms of Democracy
      3. Normative Theories of Democracy and the Problem of Democratic Competence
      4. Empirical Theories of Public Opinion and Policy
      5. Elements of Democratic Competence
      6. Conclusion
    2. 5 | Psychological Perspectives on Public Opinion
      1. Speaking the Language: Beliefs, Values, Attitudes, and Opinions
      2. Early Theories of Attitude Formation and Change: The Legacies of Behaviorism
      3. Cognitive Processing: What Happens When People Think
      4. Consistency and Judgmental Theories: Attitudes Come in Packages
      5. Motivational Theories: Same Attitude, Different Reason
      6. Links Between Attitudes and Behavior: What People Think and What They Do
      7. Emotions and Attitudes
      8. Conclusion
    3. 6 | Stereotyping, Social Norms, and Public Opinion
      1. Attribution Theory
      2. Stereotyping
      3. Social Norms
      4. Sociological Accounts of Opinion: Traces of In-Group Conformity?
      5. Conclusion
    4. 7 | Perception and Opinion Formation
      1. The Limits of Perception
      2. Perception and Opinion: Socialization and Social Comparison
      3. Perception and Public Opinion Formation
      4. Public Opinion as a Social Process
      5. Conclusion and Implications for the Future
    5. 8 | Economic Approaches
      1. Induction and Deduction
      2. Economic Explanations and Rational Choice Perspectives
      3. Rational Choice and Psychology
      4. Conclusion
  9. Part Three: Public Opinion in Context
    1. 9 | Content and Conflict in Public Opinion
      1. The Public’s Level of Political Knowledge
      2. American Public Opinion: Consensus and Contestation
      3. Understanding American Attitudes about Race
      4. Conclusion
    2. 10 | Public Opinion and Policymaking, Coauthored with Lawrence R. Jacobs
      1. Constraint, Impulsion, or Irrelevance?
      2. Testing Policy Responsiveness
      3. Changes and Variations in Responsiveness to Public Opinion
      4. Is Government Responsiveness to Public Opinion Democratic?
      5. Conclusion
    3. 11 | Mass Media, Campaigning, and the Public
      1. Communication, Mass Media, and Public Opinion: Early Development and Perspectives
      2. Who Decides What the Media Present?
      3. The Effects of Mass Media on Public Opinion
      4. Reconsiderations of Media Effects
      5. Campaigning and Opinion Change
      6. Election Campaigns
      7. Conclusion: How Well Do the Media Serve Public Opinion?
    4. 12 | Looking Ahead
  10. Index