The Debate Regarding The Formation Of Public Opinion

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The article contributes to the ongoing scholarly debate regarding the formation of public opinion. In the communications literature, as well as the social sciences, scholars have argued that the public depend on the the elite and parties for information used to construct their own opinions. Other scholars have argued that events themselves shape public opinion, especially towards foreign policy issues such as the Iraq war. Within these scholars, there are those who support the reinforcement model which indicates that people select news events or stories that reinforce their existing attitudes. On the other hand, there are those scholars who argue that the public expose itself to events the contradict its own attitudes to update such attitudes, the surprising events model. This article utilizes the Iraq War as an example to test the empirical support of the above arguments using an experimental design.

The article found support for the surprising events model, as well as the cost/benefit model for public opinion formation. At the meantime, the paper found little support for the argument suggesting that the public shape their attitudes depending on elite cues. These findings are important in light of the wide acceptance of the partisan public opinion formation model across the social sciences. This model suggests that the elite will present the public with information that will shape their preferences, especially on political issues like the Iraq war. This result shows that
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