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.

The Public and Public Opinion in Political Theories


The origins of our modern conception of public opinion are usually traced to liberal democratic theories of the eighteenth century, with precursors reaching all the way back to ancient Greece (Palmer, 1936). And yet the connections between empirical public opinion research and political theory have been remarkably loose. Despite the encouragement of leading researchers such as Berelson (1952), Lazarsfeld (1957), and Noelle-Neumann (1979), public opinion researchers have only recently taken up the task of trying to integrate empirical and philosophical models (e.g., Herbst, 1993; Price & Neijens, 1997; Althaus, 2006).

This chapter explores some fundamental connections between public opinion research and democratic theories, with several interrelated aims: (a) illustrating briefly the historical span of democratic theories and the ...

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