Should the Mass Public Follow Elite Opinion? It Depends
Jennifer L. Hochschild (2012) SHOULD THE MASS PUBLIC FOLLOW ELITE OPINION? IT DEPENDS …, Critical Review: A Journal of Politics and Society, 24:4, 527-543, DOI: 10.1080/08913811.2012.788280
Posted: 23 Aug 2013
Date Written: July 9, 2013
John Zaller’s finding that members of the public usually follow elites’ cues may seem normatively disturbing. If true, it might be taken to obviate the need for democracy or to show that elites are manipulating the public.
However, as long as the public sometimes fails to follow elites, we can judge cases of public followership according to independent criteria, such as whether the public’s occasional rebellions against elite opinion further liberal-democratic or utilitarian purposes. A review of some prominent cases of mass followership of and mass divergence from elite opinion suggests that public opinion that is independent of elite leadership is neither an unmitigated good nor an unmitigated problem for a well-ordered polity.
Keywords: Race, gender, ethnicity
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