chapter  12
14 Pages

An Agenda-Setting Perspective on Historical Public Opinion

Public opinion is an enduring and important problem for students of the past because it is a critical part of any history involving democratic institutions. Past public opinion will never be “discovered” in a trunk of old letters and documents. Historians have worked around this problem by compiling evidence from sources as disparate as presidential letters and newspaper cartoons, and deducing a public temperament. Whether right or wrong, conclusions based on such an approach are even more risky than usual for historians.