Opinion Formation

Given what I just wrote about Europe and the task we face in turning opinion around on Europe, I thought I’d better talk about opinion formation: who swings public opinion, and how they do it.

It is widely accepted (see this for example) that there is a two-step process in opinion formation; rather than being directly affected by the media, people are more influenced by exposure to each other.  In particular, a small group of “opinion leaders” (perhaps <10% of people), who have highly-connected social networks, are critical to the process.

So who are these opinion leaders?  Interestingly, even popular bloggers only have roughly the same influence as columnists; opinion leaders generally exert their influence by direct interpersonal contact.  Opinion seems split on whether there is anything “special” like education, class, or profession about opinion leaders, but it seems safe to say that they are well-informed on the subject in question, have large interpersonal networks, and talk about the subject!

So – if like me – you want to swing opinion, research the topic and talk about it.  But be careful: I have a dreadful tendency to bore-for-Britain once you get me started:-) And I’m sure this has a pretty negative effect on opinion formation!

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