Constructing Public Opinion: How Political Elites Do what They Like and why We Seem to Go Along with it

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Columbia University Press, 2001 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 250 pages
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Is polling a process that brings "science" into the study of society? Or are polls crude instruments that tell us little about the way people actually think? The role of public opinion polls in government and mass media has gained increasing importance with each new election or poll taken.

Here Lewis presents a new look at an old tradition, the first study of opinion polls using an interdisciplinary approach combining cultural studies, sociology, political science, and mass communication. Rather than dismissing polls, he considers them to be a significant form of representation in contemporary culture; he explores how the media report on polls and, in turn, how publicized results influence the way people respond to polls. Lewis argues that the media tend to exclude the more progressive side of popular opinion from public debate. While the media's influence is limited, it works strategically to maintain the power of pro-corporate political elites.

 

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Contents

Why Numbers Matter and Why We Should Be Suspicious of Them
3
Public Opinion Polls as a Cultural Form
21
The Media Representation of Public Opinion
44
Getting the Right Response? Media Influence on Public Opinion
77
What Are Opinions and Where Do They Come From?
98
The Ideology of Assumptions
118
Public Opinion
138
Selling Unrepresentative Democracy
167
Hegemony and Its Discontents
198
Appendix
205
References
221
Index
235
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About the author (2001)

Justin Lewis is professor of communication at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

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