Contemporary Public Opinion: Issues and the News

Contemporary Public Opinion: Issues and the News

Contemporary Public Opinion: Issues and the News

Contemporary Public Opinion: Issues and the News

Synopsis

This book discusses the public opinion process with a focus on the role that the news media play in shaping public opinion. Although heavily influenced by the agenda-setting perspective -- the view that the news media define the important issues of the day and determine how these issues are presented -- the authors neither support nor refute this claim. They present instead a variety of contemporary scholarship integrated into a coherent picture of public opinion for a general audience.

Excerpt

In 1922 Walter Lippmann published his classic, Public Opinion. Except for the fact that his contemporary examples are now very dated--and in some instances so obscure that even the present authors have difficulty explaining them--it is a book that is still very much up to date in its discussion of the role of the news media in the formation of public opinion. When college students are not fully convinced by the elaboration of this argument, one of us (Maxwell McCombs) simply asks them to consider what the merits of the book must be in order to stay in print for over two thirds of a century.

Moreover, Public Opinion is a book that reads well, the product of a facile writer who was the dean of American journalism for at least four decades. Its journalistic origins, its concern with explicating the role of the news media in the creation of public opinion, and its pivotal position in the intellectual history of research on the agenda-setting role of the news media all combine to make Public Opinion a critical benchmark for the book that we have written.

Our goal, like Lippmann's, is to present a lively discussion of the public opinion process with particular attention to the contributions of the news media. Given the background of the authors, it is unnecessary to confess that it is a discussion heavily influenced by the agenda-setting perspective, the view that the news media define to a significant degree what are the major issues of the day. But our purpose here is not to proselytize for that view or to present a new theory of public opinion. Our purpose is to integrate a variety of contemporary scholarship into a coherent picture of . . .

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