Gleaning the opinions of ordinary individuals became the object of an astonishing number of enterprises during the twentieth century: journalists hoping both to pinpoint and expand their readership, corporations to tap into and stoke consumers’ desires, state agencies and political candidates to read and influence the public mood. Focused on the rise of modern public opinion polling, this chapter tracks the creation by self-professed experts in the United States – and, somewhat later, in other Western ‘mass’ societies – of a science of opinion. It also explores the justifications for this development, and particularly the argument that empirically determining the sentiments, tastes, and will of ‘the people’ would lead to a more responsive, transparent or efficient society and body politic.
- Public Opinion
- Public Life
- Opinion Poll
- Opinion Survey
- Polling Technique
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© 2012 Sarah E. Igo
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Igo, S.E. (2012). Hearing the Masses: The Modern Science of Opinion in the United States. In: Brückweh, K., Schumann, D., Wetzell, R.F., Ziemann, B. (eds) Engineering Society. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137284501_11
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