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.

The Public and Public Opinion in Political Theories

The public and public opinion in political theories

The origins of our modern conception of public opinion are usually traced to liberal democratic theories of the eighteenth century, with precursors reaching all the way back to ancient Greece (Palmer, 1936). And yet the connections between empirical public opinion research and political theory have been remarkably loose. Despite the encouragement of leading researchers such as Berelson (1952), Lazarsfeld (1957), and Noelle-Neumann (1979), public opinion researchers have only recently taken up the task of trying to integrate empirical and philosophical models (e.g., Herbst, 1993; Price & Neijens, 1997; Althaus, 2006).

This chapter explores some fundamental connections between public opinion research and democratic theories, with several interrelated aims: (a) illustrating briefly the ...

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