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Manipulation and Consent How Voters and Leaders Manage Complexity

Elkins, David J.

Published by Univ of British Columbia Pr, 1993
ISBN 10: 0774804246 / ISBN 13: 9780774804240
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Title: Manipulation and Consent How Voters and ...

Publisher: Univ of British Columbia Pr

Publication Date: 1993

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition: Good+

Dust Jacket Condition: No Dust Jacket

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0.75 x 9.5 x 6.5 Inches; 256 pages. Bookseller Inventory # 62993

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Synopsis: Often accused of being uninformed on important political issues, the general public is an easy target for cartoonists and commentators who like to depict it as an undefinable mass of people without a sense of direction. In "Manipulation and consent", David Elkins challenges this impression. While individual citizens may be ignorant on many matters, he contends they are well informed on a few specialized issues they deem important, comprising a multitude of informal "issue publics" - sets of people sharing a salient interest. In fact, the general public as a whole is much better informed and more politically sophisticated than it is normally given credit for. Originally defined by Philip Converse, the idea of "issue publics" has attracted the support of many political scientists, but Elkins is the first to provide a full-scale analysis of a substantial body of data within this framework. In an innovative approach to opinion-taking, he presented a large number of individuals with a list of 27 current issues, asking that they choose three and expand on them. This methodology effectively bridges the gap between what have hitherto been regarded as two incompatible traditions of research - large-scale representative sample surveys, on the one hand, and, on the other, in-depth, focused, and personalized interviews. Dismayed by the fragmentation of public opinion as demonstrated by Converse's model, most previous researchers have failed to analyze the complex ways in which political leaders try to guide or manipulate these groups into a common frame of reference. Elkins finds that everyone can be manipulated on some issues - especially on those matters in which they have little interest - but that the same individuals also belong to any number of "issue publics" which in turn constrain and manipulate the would-be leaders. Elkins' argument about public opinion, while seemingly intuitive, is likely to arouse controversy among political scientists. At the same time, his discussion of the debate between pluralists and elitists, the changing organization of political parties, the usefulness of polls, and the concept of electoral mandate should provide fascinating reading for anyone interested in the political process.

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