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This book probes the anatomy of public opinion by analyzing its components, their interrelations and dynamics.
Building upon recent work in communication, social psychology, social cognition, and political science, Jacob Shamir and Michal Shamir approach public opinion as a multidimensional concept with a multitude of expressions. Public opinion is not comprised merely of a distribution of attitudes obtained in the polls. It also expresses and is expressed by a climate of opinion, expectations, public speech and political action. Often these different facets coincide, but they may also diverge. Public opinion can evolve along different dynamic paths; the nature of the information environment is a major factor in determining which dynamic path will be set in motion.
While social information and social construction are important in public opinion processes, major information events play a central role in moving public opinion and in constraining processes of social construction. In this book these postulates are explored on the micro and macro levels, but the focus is on public opinion dynamics at the system level: how the facets of public opinion respond to variablility in the information environment. This is approached from different directions and with different parameters. The authors use as their case study Israeli public opinion on issues of peace and territories during the Intifada.
The Anatomy of Public Opinion will form an important part in the body of study on the role of information in public opinion processes. It will be of interest to students and scholars of political science, communication, public opinion, and political psychology.