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

See all articles by Jennifer L. Hochschild

Jennifer L. Hochschild

Harvard University; Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Date Written: July 9, 2013

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Hochschild, Jennifer L., Should the Mass Public Follow Elite Opinion? It Depends (July 9, 2013). 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. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2310066

Jennifer L. Hochschild (Contact Author)

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Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

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