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.

Knowledge and Attitudes

Knowledge and attitudes

The simple notion that citizens elect representatives who implement policies with which they agree is central to democratic theory. In this way, all citizens can pursue their own interests as well as the interests of the common good in an orderly and efficient way. According to many political theorists, this simple process enables democratic governments to maintain stability and legitimacy.

On close inspection, however, this process is far from simple. It depends critically on a number of fairly demanding steps. It first requires that at least a substantial majority of citizens carefully attend to political events on the local, state, and national stages. Further, citizens must consolidate the constant stream of political information provided by the news media, advocacy groups, ...

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