chapter  14
8 Pages

Opinion Leadership and Public Opinion: Where Weak/Strong Media Paradigms Converge

ByGabriel Weimann

The impact of mass media on public opinion is one of the most debated issues in communication research. During the past several decades, the lingering debate over the power of mass media has gone through several paradigm shifts. The early hypodermic needle and magic-bullet models of the 1920s and 1930s, attributing almost omnipotent power to the mass media, were replaced by a paradigm based on the ideas that Lazarsfeld and his colleagues in Columbia University’s Bureau of Applied Social Research put forth in The People’s Choice and subsequent studies (e.g., Lazarsfeld, Berelson, & Gaudet, 1948; Lazarsfeld & Merton, 1943; Lazarsfeld & Merton, 1948; Katz & Lazarsfeld, 1955). Media eff ects were seen as much more sophisticated and complex in nature than previously assumed; they were, moreover, mediated by social networks, opinion leaders, and the selective nature of media consumption and informational diets, all of which reinforced rather than changed existing attitudes (Scheufele & Tewksbury, 2007).