CMN 3133: Reading #7 Nov 10 2013
“The Spiral of Silence: A theory of Public opinion”
If public opinion arises from an interaction of individuals with their social environments, we should find at
work the processes which Asch (2) and Milgram (6) have confirmed experimentally. To the individual, not
isolating himself is more important than his own judgment. This appears to be a condition of life in human
society; if it were otherwise, sufficient integration could not be achieved.
Failing to toe the line. The concepts of public opinion, sanction, can punish him for filing to toe the line.
Quasistatistical organ” (7): by observing his social environwent, by assessing the distribution of opinions
for and against his ideas, but ^bove all by evaluating the strength (commitment), the urgency, and the
chances of success of certain proposals and viewpoint
Or he may find that the views he holds are losing ground; the more this appears to be so, the more
uncertain he will become of himself, and the less he will be inclined to express his opinion.
Hus the tendency of the one to speak up and the other TO be silent starts off a spiraling process which
increasinglyestablishes one opinion as the prevailing one.
Public opinion is a matter of speaking and of silence.
There is merely a loss of resisting power, a diminished sense of personal responsibility of the duty to battle
for one’s own opinion.
The process of public opinion formation resting on the “spiral of silence’ Tocqueville in “L’Ancien Regime et
1. Individuals form a picture of the distribution of opinion in their social environment and of the trend of
opinion. They observe which views are gaining strength and which are declining.
2.2. Willingness to expose one’s views publicly varies according to the individual’s assessment of the
frequency distribution and the trend of pinions in his social environment. . It is greater if he believes his own
view is, and will be, the dominating one or (though not dominating now) is becoming more widespread.
There is less willingnessif he feels that his own view is losing ground. 3. 3. From this one can further deduce that if the assessment of the current distribution of opinion and the
actual distribution are clearly divergent, it is because the opinion whose strength is overestimated is
displayed more in public.
4. There is a positive correlation between the present and the future assessment: ft an opinion is
considered to be the prevailing one, it is likely to be considered the future one also (and vice versa), but to
5.5. If there is a divergence in the assessment of the present and future assessment: if an opin