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 Use of Scales in Surveys


As in the natural sciences, research is conducted in the social sciences in order both to test empirical presumptions and to provide answers to problems. Whereas the natural scientist uses balances, rulers and meters, the social scientist mainly uses scales to obtain information about attitudes, values and intentions. Empirical social science uses methods of scale construction to develop scales. This chapter introduces the most common and established techniques of scale construction. Moreover, it examines the vast variety of measurement instruments employed by the social sciences. Finally two approaches that graphically illustrate the objects under investigation will be discussed. For further details on scaling techniques and related methods see, for example, Borg and Staufenbiel (1997) and Miller (1991).

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