The Mass Media in Liberal Democratic Societies

By Stanley Rothman | Go to book overview

THREE
THE CONTRIBUTION OF SPIRAL OF SILENCE THEORY TO AN UNDERSTANDING OF MASS MEDIA

Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann

I n the proceedings of the 25th Annual Conference of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) 1970, there was a report on a session titled "Toward a Theory of Public Opinion"1 featuring two speakers from the University of Chicago: Brewster Smith, the psychologist, and Sidney Verba, the political scientist. Both speakers displayed marked impatience. The psychologist maintained that research has "not faced the problem of how opinions of individuals articulate to produce social and political consequences. The problem of articulation implied in any conception of public opinion as a social fact is primary agenda for political science and sociology." The political scientist stated: "Much political public opinion research is irrelevant for the development of macro-political theory dealing with the relationship between mass attitudes and behavior and significant political outcomes. The main reason for this irrelevancy is the focus in most public opinion research on the individual citizen as a unit of analysis"

Both were searching for an answer to the same question: How does the sum of individual opinions, as determined by public

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