One of the central tenets of a democracy is that we expect the public to have some kind of a role in governmental decision making. After all, democracy means government by the people and for the people. But exactly what role does public opinion play? And do citizens live up to democracy's expectations of them? In their new introductory text, Rosalee A. Clawson and Zoe M. Oxley clearly and systematically link normative questions of democratic theory - whether citizens endorse the basic principles of our democratic system; whether their opinions are pliable; whether they organize their political thinking - to existing empirical research on public opinion. Putting the core ideas of public opinion into explicit dialogue with the core assumptions of democratic theory, the authors explore the fruitful and sometimes frustrating tensions between democratic ideals and their practice. The authors begin with a clear examination of the normative debates of democratic theory, outlining the classical, pluralist, participatory, and democratic elitism strands. Along the way, they explore the basics of public opinion research.
In each of the subsequent chapters - on socialization, the mass media, attitude stability, trust in government, support for civil liberties, and more - the authors not only describe the content of public opinion, but also tell readers what those findings reveal about the assumptions of democratic theory. Using what they call an 'embedded methods' approach, the authors focus throughout the text on especially influential studies rather than presenting all methods in one stand-alone chapter. This integrated approach allows students to see how methods are applied within the context of specific studies and provides a richer understanding of the research process. Should students want to delve further into the methodology, the authors also include an appendix that details the core research methods of public opinion. The authors also pay close attention to issues of race, gender, class, and other important cleavages throughout the text - rather than segregating these topics in separate chapters - because research in these areas informs broader debates within public opinion literature.
An array of tables, figures, photos, suggested reading lists, and bolded key terms further enhance student learning. Clearly written, readable, and engaging, this innovative text offers a fresh take on the foundations of public opinion theory, research, and practice.