There has long been a need--a widely felt and even a vociferously proclaimed need--for a nontechnical book of readings on public opinion and propaganda designed to contribute broadly to students' liberal education. While readings with a narrower goal (often preprofessional) and a different orientation serve a useful purpose, they do not adequately fulfill certain liberal arts objectives.
This anthology has been prepared to fill the void. To the best of our knowledge, it represents the first collection of readings in this field designed specifically for the nonspecialist, embracing selections with sufficient depth to supplement a textbook and sufficient breadth to stand alone. If such a collection can also be read with profit and pleasure by the general reader desiring to learn more about this area of human activity, so much the better. We sincerely believe that this is such a volume.
The materials chosen had to satisfy the following requirements: pertinence, percipience, and readability. We are firmly convinced that the typical undergraduate student will more readily absorb observations felicitously phrased than those of equal merit couched in "academese" or requiring methodological sophistication of the reader. This is not to say that we have sacrificed matter to manner. Nor is it to say that we have been uniformly successful in our search for the well-turned phrase. Nor, further, is there any intention to depreciate the carefully conceived and executed empirical studies of public opinion and propaganda, which contribute so much to the understanding of the expert--but, alas, also to the frustration of the uninitiated. But we do believe that those who are sensitive to matters of style as well as of content will find enjoyment in most of the excerpts. Certainly, if we may judge from the reactions of our own students who have been exposed to the type of material represented in this collection and who have found the experience intellectually exhilarating, this should be the case.
A word about sources: An examination of the Table of Contents will reveal an almost cavalier disregard of the convention that books of readings should consist largely of the efforts of academicians. They, to be sure, are generously represented, but so also are journalists, novelists, poets, philosophers, jurist--anyone, in fact, who has something to say which is relevant, lucid, and discerning and who, therefore, can illuminate significant aspects of the chosen area of inquiry.
And now about scope: We begin with a consideration of the nature of public opinion. A discussion of the dynamics of the public opinion process and of the role of public opinion in a democracy is followed by a consideration of the numerous factors which influence or determine opinion. The mass media of communication, both as molders and reflectors of public opinion and as instruments of propaganda, come in for close scrutiny. The . . .