Public Opinion


Public Opinion and the Media

Syllabus (pdf)

This course is an introduction to the main issues in research about public opinion. The course covers two overlapping themes: First, we discuss the meaning and origins of public opinion. What is public opinion and how should we measure it? How do individuals form their opinions? Why should we care about public opinion? Second, we examine causes of public opinion, focusing on the role of the media. How do the media affect public opinion? How important is media influence compared to other factors? What is the relationship between new technologies, such as the internet, and public opinion? During the discussion we will critically examine the evidence and methods presented and generate new hypotheses and research topics.

The course has two basic goals. The first is to introduce advanced undergraduate students to the major themes, debates, and puzzles in the study of public opinion. The second is to allow students to grow familiar with some of the methodological challenges of studying public opinion (through evaluation and critique of the text) and then to develop a research proposal of their own that sets out a research question and a research plan for answering that question. Students have a chance to apply what they learn by participating in a research project about political discussion for the Bachelor project in Political Psychology during Block 4.

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