The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion
Cambridge University Press, Aug 28, 1992 - Political Science - 367 pages
In this 1992 book John Zaller develops a comprehensive theory to explain how people acquire political information from elites and the mass media and convert it into political preferences. Using numerous specific examples, Zaller applies this theory to the dynamics of public opinion on a broad range of subjects, including domestic and foreign policy, trust in government, racial equality, and presidential approval, as well as voting behaviour in U.S. House, Senate, and presidential elections. The thoery is constructed from four basic premises. The first is that individuals differ substantially in their attention to politics and therefore in their exposure to elite sources of political information. The second is that people react critically to political communication only to the extent that they are knowledgeable about political affairs. The third is that people rarely have fixed attitudes on specific issues; rather, they construct 'preference statements'on the fly as they confront each issue raised. The fourth is that, in constructing these statements, people make the greatest use of ideas that are, for various reasons, the most immediately salient to them. Zaller emphasizes the role of political elites in establishing the terms of political discourse in the mass media and the powerful effect of this framing of issues on the dynamics of mass opinion on any given issue over time.
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Introduction The fragmented state of opinion research
Information predispositions and opinion
How citizens acquire information and convert it into public opinion
Coming to terms with response instability
Making it up as you go along
The mainstream and polarization effects
Basic processes of attitude change
Tests of the onemessage model
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acceptance function Achen American analysis antiwar message argument attitude change attitude reports Axiom campaign intensity candidate capture Central America chapter citizens coefficients considerations consistent Contra guerrillas correlated countervalent cueing messages defense spending Democrats depends dominant doves elite discourse Equation estimates evaluations evidence expected favor hawk-dove hawks and doves highly aware persons homosexuality House elections ideas ideological important incumbent indicates individuals inertial resistance information flow interaction interview Iran-Contra less aware levels of political logistic function mainstream mass media mass opinion measure Mondale National Election Study nonmonotonic opinion change opinion leadership outpartisans party people's percent polarization political awareness position predispositions presidential public opinion race racial RAS model rates Reagan reason reception reception-acceptance model relationship Republicans response instability scores shown Source stop-and-think stories survey questions Table tests tion tisan U.S. involvement V. O. Key values variables Vietnam Vietnam War vote voters Zaller