Article

Public Opinion

Andrew Perrin

in Sociology

ISBN: 9780199756384
Published online July 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0042
Public Opinion

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The modern idea of public opinion research developed in the 1930s as a promising way to bring new scientific techniques to bear on important matters of democracy and representation. The theory and practice of public opinion research reflected that time period’s increasing faith in science and the increasing sense that an important piece of being a democratic citizen was holding an opinion. As the number of such citizens grew, they became both more spread out across the country and more concentrated in large cities, and governments sought to make democracy more representative; thus it became increasingly important to understand how citizens were thinking on important matters. Public opinion research offers a systematic, reliable approach to that problem, and that is both its strength and its weakness. Public opinion research provides a ready picture of the views of ordinary citizens and, at the same time, changes the ways citizens consider their opinions and the range of issues they hold opinions about. In the contemporary United States, public opinion polling is everywhere. Citizens know what it’s like to answer questions, whether in person, on the telephone, or on the Internet. They also know what it means when a poll is reported in the media. Politicians follow those polls closely and use them to argue their positions with their colleagues, the press, and the public.

Article.  8704 words. 

Subjects: Sociology ; Comparative and Historical Sociology ; Economic Sociology ; Gender and Sexuality ; Health, Illness, and Medicine ; Population and Demography ; Race and Ethnicity ; Social Movements and Social Change ; Social Stratification, Inequality, and Mobility ; Social Theory

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