nett, Herbert Gans, Ora Simcha-Fagan, Tom McCarthy, Todd Gitlin,
Daniel Hallin, Michael MacKuen, Lutz Erbring, Jim Kuklinski, and Noam
Chomsky, and Donald Saari.
We are also grateful for discussions with and ideas from Allen Bar-
ton, Richard Pious, Dennis Quinn, Eric Smith, Eleanor Singer, Michael
Delli Carpini, Nathaniel Leff, Alan Westin, Lewis Edinger, Mildred
Schwartz, Phil Davison, A1 Gollin, Russell Neuman, Allan Silver, Thom-
as Cook, Darrell West, Jim Stimson, James Gibson, Kathryn Yatrakis,
Judith Mack, Douglas Chalmers, Philip Oldenburg, Thomas Bernstein,
Roger Hilsman, Steven Cohen, Harold Watts, and Alfred Stepan.
Some of our ideas can be traced back to Page's work with Richard
Brody at Stanford University. More recently, we are also particularly grate-
ful to Tom Ferguson, who made numerous suggestions about elite
influences upon public opinion, and to Tom Graham, who insisted upon the
autonomous force of public opinion and the importance of genuine party
competition. Neither of us was fortunate enough to meet V. 0. Key, Jr., but
the spirit of his work was important in shaping ours.
Our deepest personal thanks go to our families, including helpers
Eleanor, Tim, Alex, and Benjamin, and especially to Mary De Florio and
Mary Page, who endured-for
longer than they or we care to remember-
all the absences, tensions, and travails inherent in such a project, and who
supported us in many important ways.
Despite these many debts we are, of course, entirely responsible for
the analyses, interpretations, and arguments in the book, some of which
may provoke controversy.
Benjamin I. Page
Robert Y. Shapiro
Evanston and New York
Rational Public Opinion
we propose to show in this book that the American public, as a
collat&iti, holds a number of&, ss,
and sensible opinions about
public policy and that these opinions develop and change in a reasonable
fashion, responding to changing circumstances and to
Our evidence comes trom many hunareas of opinion surveys conducted
between 1935 and 1990.
Our theme of a rational public flies in the face of a great deal of con-
ventional wisdom and scholarly commentary. It is common to express
skepticism about, even disdain for, the knowledge and the reasoning ca-
pacity of the public. We will argue that such skepticism and disdain are not
The most persuasive evidence that is usually brought forth to support
a negative view of public opinion-namely,
survey research findings con-
cerning the political ignorance and inattentiveness of individual citizens
and the changeability of their expressed policy preferences-does
tually speak to the question of public opinion as
As will be shown
public opinion has
erent from those of
the opinions of individual citizens, taken one at a time.