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 Deliberating Public and Deliberative Polls1


Since the first scientific studies of public opinion were conducted, survey researchers and democratic theorists alike have pondered the central concept of public opinion and its relationship to mass survey data (Price & Neijens, 1997). Early theorists of public opinion framed it as an emergent product of broad discussion—emanating ideally from a debate open to wide popular participation, free-flowing and uncensored, and well-informed (Lasswell, 1941). However, early scientific analysts (e.g., Allport, 1937) found the concept of public opinion as an ‘emergent product’ of discussion difficult to grasp empirically and problematic in a number of respects, and over time they came to accept mass survey data as the only workable empirical expression of public opinion (Key, 1961; Converse, 1987; → ...

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