In This Article Public Opinion in Affluent Democracies

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Journals
  • Primary Sources
  • Religious Orientations

Political Science Public Opinion in Affluent Democracies
Russell J. Dalton
  • LAST REVIEWED: 12 October 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 February 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0046


Public-opinion research spans several aspects of the social sciences, from political attitudes in political science, to understanding family life in sociology, to consumer confidence surveys in economics. Moreover, the development of scientific sampling methods and sophisticated interviewing techniques has improved the precision in measuring public sentiments. This article covers some of the major resources for studying and understanding opinions on political topics in the United States and other affluent democracies. It focuses on the major books on the content and methodology of public-opinion research as a guide to current scholarship. In addition, the article includes information on primary resources and journals emphasizing research on political attitudes. Many of the large-scale US and international public-opinion projects also provide the survey data and additional information on their research topics, and these projects are listed in the various sections of the article.

General Overviews

There are two types of general introductions to this field. The first are textbooks that outline key concepts and findings in public-opinion research. Most focus on the United States (such as Abramson, et al. 2016; Erikson and Tedin 2015; and Flanigan, et al. 2014). Dalton 2013 examines public opinion in affluent democracies. The second set of books consists of handbooks or collections that summarize existing research on the nature and content of public opinion. Leighley and Edwards 2010 describes attitudes of the American public, and Shapiro and Jacobs 2011 examines the interaction of public opinion and the media; other handbooks cover public opinion in established democracies or across global regions (Dalton and Klingemann 2007, Donsbach and Traugott 2007).

  • Abramson, Paul R., John H. Aldrich, Brad T. Gomez, and David W. Rohde. Change and Continuity in the 2012 and 2014 Elections. Thousand Oaks, CA: CQ, 2016.

    E-mail Citation »

    In addition to a focused discussion of the 2012 and 2014 elections, this textbook describes the evolution of American electoral behavior from 1952 until 2014.

  • Dalton, Russell J. Citizen Politics: Public Opinion and Political Parties in Advanced Industrial Democracies. 6th ed. Los Angeles: CQ, 2013.

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    A cross-national comparison of public opinion, political participation, and electoral behavior for the United States, Britain, France, Germany, and other democracies.

  • Dalton, Russell J., and Hans-Dieter Klingemann, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Political Behavior. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

    DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199270125.001.0001E-mail Citation »

    A collection of nearly fifty essays summarizing the state of research in each area: mass belief systems and communication, social modernization and social change, political values, participation, electoral behavior, and political representation.

  • Donsbach, Wolfgang, and Michael W. Traugott, eds. The SAGE Handbook of Public Opinion Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2007.

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    This collection focuses on the methodology of public-opinion research and its usage. It also includes sections on public-opinion formation and the broad characteristics of public opinions.

  • Erikson, Robert S., and Kent L. Tedin. American Public Opinion: Its Origins, Content, and Impact. 9th ed. Boston: Pearson, 2015.

    E-mail Citation »

    This textbook describes public opinion in the United States and factors affecting electoral behavior.

  • Flanigan, William H., Nancy H. Zingale, Elizabeth Theiss-Morse, and Michael W. Wagner. Political Behavior of the American Electorate. 13th ed. Washington, DC: CQ, 2014.

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    A concise review of many of the main themes in American political behavior and the empirical evidence on each theme.

  • Leighley, Jan, and George C. Edwards III, eds. The Oxford Handbook of American Elections and Political Behavior. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199235476.001.0001E-mail Citation »

    This collection examines aspects of political behavior relevant to elections: political participation, vote choice, presidential and nonpresidential elections, and the public’s issue interests.

  • Shapiro, Robert Y., and Lawrence R. Jacobs, eds. The Oxford Handbook of American Public Opinion and the Media. Oxford Handbooks of American Politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

    E-mail Citation »

    This collection examines the interrelationship of public opinion, the mass media, and the democratic governing process in the United States.

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