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In this book John Zaller develops a comprehensive theory to explain how people acquire political information from the mass media and convert it into political preferences. Using numerous specific examples, Zaller applies this theory in order to explain the dynamics of public opinion on a broad range of subjects, including both domestic and foreign policy, trust in government, racial equality, and presidential approval, as well as voting behavior in U.S. House, Senate and Presidential elections. Particularly perplexing characteristics of public opinion are also examined, such as the high degree of random fluctuations in political attitudes observed in opinion surveys and the changes in attitudes due to minor changes in the wording of survey questions.
Table of Contents
List of tables and figures
1 Introduction: The fragmented state of opinion research
2 Information, predispositions, and opinion
3 How citizens acquire information and convert it into public opinion
4 Coming to terms with response instability
5 Making it up as you go along
6 The mainstream and polarization effects
7 Basic processes of "attitude change"
8 Tests of the one-message model
9 Two-sided information flows
10 Information flow and electoral choice
11 Evaluating the model and looking toward future research
12 Epilogue: The question of elite domination of public opinion