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The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion (Cambridge Studies in Public Opinion and Political Psychology)

12 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521407861
ISBN-10: 0521407869
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"...this is an impressive and important book with broad implications." Communication Theory

"John Zaller's volume makes sense of a diverse interdisciplinary body of work...He manages to deal in depth with most of the relevant work currently going on in political science, psychology, and sociology, and courageously wrestles with hard questions and faces up to conflicting findings." William J McGuire, Yale University

"Zaller's volume is a giant step forward in the development of a systematic understanding of the dynamics of public opinion. This is a splendid contribution." Philip E. Converse, Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences

"John Zaller has produced a truly wonderful book. It is, first, a model of what social science can be at its finest. The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion reshapes the field in ways that will reverberate throughout the study of public opinion, elections, and the relationship between elites and the mass public for decades." John Aldrich, Duke University

"Zaller's book is the most significant contribution to the scientific study of public opinion in almost three decades. It reflects vast knowledge, deep insight, and exemplary craftsmanship, weaving together theory and data, mass and elite, and psychology and politics with remarkable elegance and authority." Larry M. Bartels, Princeton University

"John Zaller has written the single most important book on public opinion since V. O. Key's 1961 classic, Public Opinion and American Democracy....Zaller offers a well-developed theory, supported by considerable data and methodological sensitivity. Overall, the book is well written and clearly organized, and it provides social scientists with the clearest model to date that explains both the nature and origins of mass opinion." Henry C. Kenski, Contemporary Sociology

"...a simple but elegant deductive model of the process by which individuals answer questions about public opinion... Zaller has written a classic." Journal of Politics

"...the style and focus of this research program is strikingly different from the norm of public opinion studies...This is perhaps the best book ever written about public opinion. It starts with elegant encompassing theory and goes on to make sense of everything we know, including numbers of stray -thought-to-be-unrelated -findings that all blend together into a coherent whole." James Stimson, American Political Science Review

Book Description

A comprehensive theory to explain how people acquire political information from the mass media and convert it into political preferences is developed and applied to the dynamics of public opinion on a broad range of subjects.
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Product Details

  • Series: Cambridge Studies in Public Opinion and Political Psychology
  • Paperback: 382 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (August 28, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521407869
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521407861
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #106,058 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
What would a comprehensive graduate exam in political science or political behavior be without a review of Zaller's now classic text? Elite discourse, Zaller informs us, shapes public opinion. That is, powerholders have the ability to mold both the agenda of the public -- the political issues that citizens feel to be most important -- as well as their beliefs about these issues. The topic raises important normative and ethical issues and the book offers a number of starting points for follow-up research. A decidedly good, important buy, this one.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By ab on July 9, 2004
Format: Paperback
Zaller's argues public opinion on issues is unreliable, primarily because elite sources of information provide competing or multiple considerations causing public opinon polls to measure whatever recent elite message an individual has stored in thier short term memory. A classic and important text. Zaller is not a straightforeward read, but lays out an important theory. The theory lacks focus on the use of core values and partisanship on public opinion; two important variables. Other than that it has held up to criticism for over a decade
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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Newsman78 on June 8, 2004
Format: Paperback
Zaller's book presents an interesting elite-driven model of public opinion, which essentially concludes that opinion polls are less than reliable and we should be skeptical of attempts to measure the public's attitudes. However, it is very dense, is chock-full of advanced statistics above the head of most political science graduate students, and therefore at the end of the day is somewhat unsatisfying.
If you need a primer on public opinion research, this isn't it. But if you want to read cutting-edge work, and you have a good grasp of statistics, dive in.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Zaller turns our perception of polling data on its ear. People don't think about most issues until they are asked, so opinion surveying might actually do more to shape opinions than actually report on them.
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By Nicholas Creel on February 16, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
You want to know about public opinion? Read this book. You want to study political science past the undergraduate level? Read this book.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Redhawk VINE VOICE on May 3, 2010
Format: Paperback
Zaller offers an insight into how public opinion is created and shifted to individuals. His view is that opinion is created within the circles of the elite, where political issues are given the proper amount of thought and consideration. After all, many in the public will not have the same time to devote to deciding what should be done in a particular instances. Zaller argues that the fact the media discusses the opinions of the elite ensures that the public will gain some insight into what they should think. A great example would be Glenn Beck and his legion of listeners. These people listen to Beck and get an idea of what is important to think about, but not how to think. They become informed about the what, but not exactly the how, unless they like those who are telling them of the issue. What all this means for the public is that issues are created among the elite and then communicated to the public, which insures that issues that are relevant to the public might not get the coverage they deserve. Anyway, this is a good book, but not for the masses. Sorry, but still good.
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The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion (Cambridge Studies in Public Opinion and Political Psychology)
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