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The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion (1992)
by John Zaller
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0521407869, Paperback)In this book John Zaller develops a comprehensive theory to explain how people acquire political information from the mass media and convert it into political preferences. Using numerous specific examples, Zaller applies this theory in order to explain the dynamics of public opinion on a broad range of subjects, including both domestic and foreign policy, trust in government, racial equality, and presidential approval, as well as voting behavior in U.S. House, Senate and Presidential elections. Particularly perplexing characteristics of public opinion are also examined, such as the high degree of random fluctuations in political attitudes observed in opinion surveys and the changes in attitudes due to minor changes in the wording of survey questions.
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:01:12 -0400)
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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