Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version



In Handbook of Communication Science. Vol. 1: Theories and Models of Communication, edited by Paul Cobley and Peter J. Schultz, 289-308. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton, 2013.


Copyright 2013 De Gruyter Mouton. Used by permission.


While the issue of citizen competency has vexed scholars throughout history, the modern concepts of a mass public and mass media are relatively new. Beginning with the seminal works of Lippmann and Dewey, we chart the evolving theories of public opinion, from the "hypodermic needle" model of the early twentieth century to the more psychologically oriented approach to media effects of today. We argue that in addition to understanding how audiences process media content, theories of public opinion must account for how media content is constructed and disseminated, which is complicated by the ever-changing nature of our media landscape.