Public opinion theory and research are becoming increasingly significant in modern societies as people's attitudes and behaviors become ever more volatile and opinion poll data becomes ever more readily available. This major new Handbook is the first to bring together into one volume the whole field of public opinion theory, research methodology, and the political and social embeddedness of polls in modern societies. It comprehensively maps out the state-of-the-art in contemporary scholarship on these topics.

With over fifty chapters written by distinguished international researchers, both academic and from the commercial sector, this Handbook is designed to:

Give the reader an overview of the most important concepts included in and surrounding the term ‘public opinion’ and its application in modern social research; Present the basic empirical concepts for assessing public opinion and opinion changes in society; Provide an overview of the social, political and legal status of public opinion research, how it is perceived by the public and by journalists, and how it is used by governments; Offer a review of the role and use of surveys for selected special fields of application, ranging from their use in legal cases to the use of polls in marketing and campaigns.

The SAGE Handbook of Public Opinion Research provides an indispensable resource for both practitioners and students alike.

Pluralistic Ignorance and Nonattitudes


A decades-old concept, ‘pluralistic ignorance’ is a term used broadly to refer to perceptual inaccuracies of the collective, by the collective. Drawing from research in communication, psychology, sociology, and related fields, this chapter examines various aspects of pluralistic ignorance. First, it highlights various definitions of the concept and the contexts in which pluralistic ignorance has been studied, and puts forth the theoretical assumptions on which this concept is grounded. Second, the chapter summarizes commonly offered explanations for and implications of this phenomenon.

The chapter ends by addressing some methodological aspects of pluralistic ignorance, presenting a section on the significance of nonattitudes. The problem of nonattitudes—or the tendency of respondents to answer survey questions regarding issues that they know nothing about or issues ...

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