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The concept of “mass beliefs” refers to the norms, attitudes, and opinions held by the general public as opposed to those held by elites (e.g. politicians, journalists, and scholars). The term does not imply that all members of the public (masses) hold the same beliefs, but rather that certain beliefs are held in common by subsets of the general citizenry that are non-negligible in size. Nowadays, surveys and polls often are the source of data that helps to define these beliefs and identify which subsets of the masses hold them.

Origins of the Concept of Mass Beliefs

The concept of “mass,” articulated from the early through middle 20th century, refers to essentially rootless, alienated, and ignorant individuals, loosely affiliated in society and culture. Some theorists feared ...

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