Attitudes and Opinions

By Stuart Oskamp; P. Wesley Schultz | Go to book overview

Preface

These are exciting times for attitude researchers, for recent years have seen notable advances in both topics and methods involved in studying attitudes. New measurement approaches have emerged, new models for the structure and organization of attitudes have been proposed, and new research findings about attitude formation, attitude change, and attitude-behavior relationships have re-invigorated the field. The widespread availability of desktop computing technology, the rise of the Internet, and increasingly sophisticated approaches to sampling and polling have stimulated a new generation of attitude scholars. Public opinion measures have become widely used by both public and private organizations, and new polls on a wide range of topics appear daily in the mass media.

Attitudes and opinions are crucial aspects of people's lives, and they influence the affairs of groups, organizations, and nations. They are the general area that has been most studied by social psychologists over the years, and yet they often receive skimpy coverage in psychology textbooks. Attitudes and opinions are also central to the concerns of other academic disciplines, including sociologists, political scientists, communications researchers, and many other social scientists. Methodologically, they have been studied by descriptive researchers, measurement specialists, public opinion pollers, theorists, and experimentalists.

The first main goal of this book is breadth of coverage, which includes the key contributions and concerns of all these fields and approaches, and thus helps to bridge the gaps between them. We have tried to avoid the one-sided emphasis of many texts, which may concentrate solely on the area of attitude change, or attitude theories, or attitude measurement. The book covers those topics in some depth, but it also includes major sections on the structure and functions of attitudes, the nature of public opinion, public opinion polling, attitude formation, communication of attitudes and opinions, attitude-behavior relationships, and the content of public opinion on the most socially important topics. Among the key themes of the volume are the usefulness of attitudes in our everyday lives, persuasion processes that lead to attitude change, and the social impact and policy implications of attitudes and opinions.

A second major aim of this book is relevance to people's lives and key concerns. It stresses principles and research findings on topics that are salient and recurrent to citizens today. In particular, Part Two of the volume covers many important contemporary social issues, including political attitudes and voting behavior, international attitudes and terrorism, racism and prejudice, sexism and gender roles, and attitudes about environmental issues.

Throughout the text we have taken a broad and interdisciplinary perspective. Although the book is intended primarily for upper-division or graduate-level psychology courses in Attitudes, it is also appropriate for courses in Survey Research, Public Opinion, Persuasion, or similar courses in political science, sociology, or communication departments. We have tried to write a scholarly, yet engaging, text. To aid understanding, we have included a number of learning aids, such as a clear organizational structure indicated by topic headings, summaries at the end of each chapter, and important terms being highlighted in

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