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.

Focus Groups and Public Opinion

David L.Morgan andCollin E.Fellows


This chapter examines two different ways that focus groups have played a role in public opinion. First, it looks at focus groups as a preliminary step in the development of survey questionnaires. In this case, focus groups are especially useful for generating survey content that studies new opinion topics or targets specific subgroups within the broader public. Second, it will consider focus groups as a self-sufficient or ‘stand-alone’ source of data on public opinion. In this case, focus groups provide an opportunity to hear members of the public discuss their opinions in more complex ways going beyond what people think, to an understanding of why they think the way they do. Academic researchers and those who wish ...

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