PRAD 255- Public opinion and persuasion - Part 1


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Slide 1

Public opinion and persuasion (Part 1) Principles of Public Relations  Matt Ragas

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What is public opinion? “Public opinion is the sum of individual opinion on an issue affecting those individuals” “Public opinion is a collection of views held by persons interested in a subject” Important: Self-interest is at the core of both of these definitions A person unaffected by or uninterested in (or maybe unaware of) an issue does not contribute to public opinion on the subject

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Example of public opinion: not always what it appears Tip: A plurality of the public often won’t have a strong opinion one way or the other on an issue. Be careful of polls that push the public to hold an opinion. Public opinion polls can be very useful, but always check the methodology. Gallup Poll conducted on the eve of the Iraq War (Source: Moore, 2008)

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Events often trigger the formation of public opinion on an topic Research has found that trigger events are important in the formation of public opinion on a topic Events lead to media coverage, to public discussion, and to the greater holding of an opinion on a topic A major event may swing public opinion temporarily in one direction on a topic

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Opinion leaders also serve as catalysts in public opinion formation Opinion leaders: individuals highly knowledgeable and articulate about specific issues that people listen to Highly interested in topic, better informed, early adopters, avid media users, organizers Two types: 1) formal opinion leaders (formal leadership) and 2) informal opinion leaders PR professionals attempt to influence opinion leaders who will then shape public opinion (two-step flow theory) Multi-step flow theory

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The role of mass media on public opinion Agenda-setting theory: media sets the public agenda. The more media attention a topic receives, the greater its perceived importance by the public PR professionals play an important role through providing media with information subsidies An estimated 50-70% of news content is the result of journalists interacting with PR professionals

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Two more theories about the media and public opinion Media-dependency theory: public will rely more on media coverage – and be influenced by it – when they don’t have personal experience on a topic Framing theory: By emphasizing (and de-emphasizing) certain aspects of a topic, media influences how the public thinks about a topic

Summary: PRAD 255- Public opinion and persuasion - Part 1 (Matt Ragas)

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