Books -- Public Opinion and the Communication of Consent by Theodore L. Glasser and Charles T. Salmon

Article excerpt

* Glasser, Theodore L. and Charles T. Salmon (1995). Public Opinion and the Communication of Consent. New York: The Guilford Press. 475 pp. Paperback, $24.95. Hardback, $49.95

Public Opinion and the Communication of Consent is an excellent assemblage of essays covering a broad spectrum of theoretical issues in the public opinion field. This book is an important acknowledgment that public opinion and mass communication are inherently related and work in a system. Given this assumption, Glasser and Salmon have brought together a number of noted scholars in this effort.

The contributors to this work approach public opinion from a variety of backgrounds. This diversity sets Public Opinion and the Communication of Consent apart from other books in the field. Indeed, this work is of value to anyone interested in public opinion and mass communication, no matter their academic area. The interdisciplinary nature of the subject matter is certainly evident in the backgrounds of the contributors. Chapters are written from approaches ranging from political science and communication to sociology and psychology.

Much of the discussion in each section of the book of necessity deals with the mettlesome issue of defining public opinion and, more importantly, how efforts devoted toward such definition have influenced the tradition of public opinion research over time. Any complete treatment of public opinion research must begin with this issue. What makes this book unique is that the varied conceptions of public opinion are discussed in depth so that interested readers come away with a fluid knowledge of the development of public opinion research.

The book is organized into five sections. In a sense, this subdivision is somewhat arbitrary. A number of the chapters in different sections overlap in topic and approach. The first section analyzes the concept of public opinion. The first chapter, by Peters, provides a sophisticated review of the development of public opinion over time. Several other chapters throughout the book revisit this topic from other perspectives, providing a multidisciplinary understanding.

The second section examines the institution of public opinion and includes essays examining the current public opinion industry (Chapter 5, by Miller) and an investigation of Ronald Reagan's reported and actual popularity (Chapters 6 by King and Schudson).

The third section focuses on psychological and sociological perspectives about public opinion and communication. …