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.

Studying Elite vs Mass Opinion


Introduction: The Elite Concept and its Implications for the Study of Public Opinion

Power and elites are universal social phenomena. The distinction between elites and non-elites is therefore an important aspect of social analysis. The fathers of elite theory, Vilfredo Pareto and Gaetano Mosca (cf. Bottomore, 1993), conceptualized power as dichotomous and therefore assumed the existence of a clear distinction between elites and non-elites (or ‘the masses’). While this crude distinction may be an acceptable simplification of social reality for studying ancient and feudal societies in which power was concentrated in the hands of a small hereditary nobility, it is certainly a gross misrepresentation of the character of modern democratic societies. These societies are not only characterized by a more or ...

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