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 Psychology of Survey Response


Since the beginning of public opinion surveys, researchers have been aware that minor changes in question wording, format, or order can profoundly affect respondents' answers (Cantril, 1944; Payne, 1951). Nevertheless, the field has long been characterized by two largely separate streams: rigorous theories of sampling on the one hand, and an experience based ‘art of asking questions’ on the other hand. This changed since the early 1980s, thanks to a collaboration of survey methodologists and cognitive psychologists, who brought theories of language comprehension, memory, and judgment to bear on the response process (for reviews see Sudman, Bradburn, & Schwarz, 1996; Schwarz, 1999; Tourangeau, Rips, & Rasinski, 2000; and the contributions in Sirken et al., 1999). This chapter highlights key lessons ...

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