The Power of Silence? Opinion Contagion and the Surprise of the Polish 2005 Parliamentary and Presidential Elections
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Eötvös Loránd University
Gdańsk University of Technology
Publication date: 2009-03-30
Polish Sociological Review 2009;165(1):123–138
This paper investigates opinion contagion in collective behaviour using threshold model (Granovetter (1978)). The theoretical background is the spiral of silence concept developed by Noelle-Neumann (1974), arguing that people only assert their opinions if they perceive a minimal support from a relevant proportion of others. We apply the model to explain the dispersion between pre-elections preferences and the final results of the Polish parliamentary and presidential elections in 2005. It is shown that the minority opinions were more widely-held than was declared in opinion polls as a consequence of different distributions of the threshold values of opinion assertion.
We would like to thank Arfon Rees for valuable advice and suggestions as well two anonymous referees.This paper has benefited from comments by participants of the Max Weber Multidisciplinary Workshop held on 9 April 2008 at European University Institute in Florence.