Impersonal Influence: How Perceptions of Mass Collectives by Diana C. Mutz

By Diana C. Mutz

Impersonal impression is ready how everyone is laid low with their perceptions of the collective critiques or reports of others--things corresponding to the well-publicized result of opinion polls (in the case of others' opinions), or media's insurance of the collective reports of others (such because the volume to which others are experiencing monetary difficulties or are being victimized via crimes). Media content material is very like minded to serving as a reputable channel of knowledge approximately large-scale collective phenomena. assurance of the collective critiques (in the case of perceptions of social difficulties resembling crime or unemployment) alters people's political attitudes in outstanding, but refined methods. these kind of results have vital implications for the standard of public opinion and the responsibility of political leaders in a mass mediated democracy.

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In political science, the largest body of empirical evidence bearing directly on the gap between personal and social levels of judgment comes from research on the political impact of personal experiences. A large accumulation of evidence shows that personal experiences are rarely connected to political judgments (Sears and Funk 1990). Whether the issue is busing, the Vietnam War, or any of a host of public policy issues, personal experiences - even those indicating an obvious self-interest typically play little or no role in determining policy preferences.

The problem Keynes describes is similar to the situation confronting the contemporary voter in a three-way race or presidential primary; a person who bases his or her selection on strategic considerations will try to assess likely winners and losers by gauging the opinions of others in order to make a vote decision (Abramowitz and Stone 1984). It is no mere coincidence that many examples of impersonal influence flow from the economic realm; media and market systems have a lot in common as impersonal means of communicating.

As a result of the increased amount of federal government activity, more problems came to be seen as "national problems" rather than local or personal ones, and national as well as local leaders were expected to address them. As social problems became divorced from people's dayto-day experience, citizens became increasingly dependent upon mediated information. "National conditions" now garnered a great deal of attention. This same shift was reflected in people's individual psychology as well; people came "increasingly to conceive of themselves as members of very large collectivities linked primarily by common identities but minimally by networks of directly interpersonal relations" (Calhoun 1991: 95-6).

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