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 8: The Historical Roots of Public Opinion Research
The Historical Roots of Public Opinion Research
Formation of Publics
Public opinion has been recognized as a political force since the eighteenth century by prominent political theorists as varied as Rousseau, Tocqueville, Bentham, Lord Acton, Bryce and others, but measuring and accounting for it through quantitative social science methods started in the early twentieth century (→ The Public and Public Opinion in Political Theories). By the 1950s, the study and measurement of public opinion via commercial polling and scholarly research had become institutionalized.
To explain the institutionalization of an intellectual activity, one needs to explain both demand and supply. On the demand side, in the nineteenth century, governments, reformers and intellectuals wanted information on the state of mind, social problems, ...