Jump to Content Jump to Main Navigation

In This Article Public Opinion

  • Introduction
  • Textbooks
  • Anthologies
  • Best Practices
  • Data Archives
  • Journals
  • Definitions and Functions

Communication Public Opinion
by
Patricia Moy

Introduction

The communication scholar’s approach to the study of public opinion emphasizes the role that mass media and interpersonal discussion play in shaping people’s attitudes, behaviors, and cognitions. Recognizing how the communication of public opinion can affect how citizens feel and what they do regarding an issue, scholars are concerned with the accuracy, quantity, and overall quality of media reports of that issue. They also investigate how interacting with individuals can shape people’s attitudes and behaviors. Studies of public opinion examine how individuals, groups, organizations, and other entities respond to expressions of opinion, and they delineate the processes by which individual opinions shape public policy. By definition, then, public opinion research is concerned with phenomena at the micro, meso, and macro levels, and, regardless of the level of analysis, can be applied to understanding social and political issues in democratic and nondemocratic systems.

Textbooks

Public opinion textbooks generally revolve around normative issues related to democracy and citizenship, include public opinion theories and processes, and identify the role that communication plays in shaping public opinion. Authors of textbooks can differ in their epistemological approach. Clawson and Oxley 2008, Glynn, et al. 2004, and Price 1992 are more social scientific in their discussions, using theory and data to explain public opinion processes. Similarly, Splichal 1999 examines normative concerns related to public opinion but adopts a critical perspective that emphasizes social critique and social change. It is rare to find a textbook that equally emphasizes social scientific and critical perspectives.

  • Clawson, Rosalee A., and Zoe M. Oxley. 2008. Public opinion: Democratic ideals, democratic practice. Washington, DC: CQ.

    E-mail Citation »

    Geared toward undergraduates, this textbook tackles various aspects of public opinion as they relate to democratic norms. (chapter 3 relates to mass media). The authors evenly balance theory with data, and the brief list of suggested readings at the end of each chapter provides a useful resource for motivated students.

  • Glynn, Carroll J., Susan Herbst, Garrett J. O’Keefe, Robert Y. Shapiro, and Mark Lindeman. 2004. Public opinion. 2d ed. Boulder, CO: Westview.

    E-mail Citation »

    This undergraduate text draws explicitly from many disciplines—communication, political science, sociology, and psychology—to provide a broad theoretical perspective to the field. The authors supplement their theoretically oriented chapters with chapters on methodology, history, definitions, and larger political contexts. Up-to-date examples and excerpts from primary texts sprinkled throughout the text help readers to apply various concepts.

  • Price, Vincent. 1992. Public opinion. Newbury Park, CA: SAGE.

    E-mail Citation »

    This slim monograph is an invaluable resource for undergraduates and graduates who desire an introduction to the historical, theoretical, sociological, psychological, and normative aspects of public opinion. The monograph maps the contours of the field, and its success is reflected in its having been translated into Spanish, Korean, Greek, and Italian.

  • Splichal, Slavko. 1999. Public opinion: Developments and controversies in the twentieth century. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

    E-mail Citation »

    This textbook for advanced undergraduates and graduates takes a critical approach to the study of public opinion. The volume can be assigned in its entirety or as stand-alone chapters, as each chapter revolves around a different development or controversy. It nicely supplements the contributions in Glasser and Salmon 1995 (cited under Anthologies).

LAST MODIFIED: 02/23/2011

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199756841-0083

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions and individuals. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.

Purchase an Ebook Version of This Article

Ebooks of the Oxford Bibliographies Online subject articles are available in North America via a number of retailers including Amazon, vitalsource, and more. Simply search on their sites for Oxford Bibliographies Online Research Guides and your desired subject article.

If you would like to purchase an eBook article and live outside North America please email onlinemarketing@oup.com to express your interest.

Article

Up

Down