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 Surveys by Governments and Politicians

Robert M.Eisinger

The history of governments' use of polls is a story about the push and pull between the desire by political elites to gauge public opinion accurately, and the concurrent resistance by political elites to the use of surveys. Simply put, the birth and growth of polling by politicians and government officials have not been met with uniform acceptance or approval. To the contrary, politicians' use of surveys has been a struggle for legitimacy, with recent public officials decrying the use of polls even as they use them. President George W. Bush repeatedly noted when campaigning in 2000 that he governs ‘based upon principle and not polls and focus groups’ (Green, 2002, p. 11). President Bush's phrasing ...

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