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.
Chapter 5: Studying Elite vs Mass Opinion
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 ...