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Title: Twilight of the pollsters : a social theory of mass opinion in late modernity
Author: Ostrowski, Marius Sebastian Jacek
ISNI:       0000 0004 6493 8372
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis examines how the occupations people hold, and the social classes in which they are situated, affect the way in which they form and express opinions. At a theoretical level, it unites the 'deep-structure' macroanalysis of social theory with the individualised microanalysis of how subjects form and express opinions in opinion research, reviving an approach that has not been pursued since early-20th-century social research. At a practical level, it responds to several recent and prominent failures of prediction by the opinion polling industry, and asks whether a broader understanding of 'mass opinion' can help avert such failures in future. The thesis argues that opinions are subjects' judgments about their social conditions, based on mental pictures they have of these conditions that combine the values and attitudes they hold with the information they have about their environment. Subjects form opinions based on these pictures via three 'means of thinking'-personality-traits, emotions, and reason-and express them using two kinds of 'means of articulation'-bodily organs and media. The thesis shows how the variety of occupations subjects hold, and the extremity of class differentials between them, introduce substantial plurality into their values and attitudes, the way they acquire information, how they think, and how they articulate themselves. In particular, it highlights the considerable asymmetries between higher- and lower-class subjects regarding: which parts of their social conditions they are experts about, and how far they are influenced by others; whether they think about their conditions more emotionally or with reasoning; and how great a range and quality of opportunities they have to articulate their views. The thesis closes by suggesting that these findings offer opinion researchers and social theorists clear directions for measuring 'mass opinion' in new ways, and potentially emancipating the voices of subjects whose opinions are suppressed in late-modern society.
Supervisor: Freeden, Michael Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Politics and government ; Political science ; Louis Althusser ; Public opinion ; Political theory ; Sociology ; Pierre Bourdieu ; Marxism ; Martin Heidegger ; Social theory ; Opinion polls