Abstract

Numerous studies have been conducted on the spiral of silence since Noelle-Neumann (1974) formulated the theory a quarter of a century ago. As a whole, these studies draw upon different conceptualizations, employ inconsistent operationalizations, and give short shrift to imintportant macroscopic variables. Such inconsistencies potentially account for substantial prointportions of the variance in spiral of silence effects. This paper examines these three areas in greater detail. First, we review key assumptions and theoretical statements of the spiral of silence. Second, we examine how these conceptual issues translate into operational ones. Finally, we outline areas that have remained largely unexplored over the last 25 years. Specifically, we contend that spiral of silence studies in different cultures have failed to take into account culture-specific variables that may mitigate the imintportance of opinion perceptions as predictors of individual behavior or attitudes. In other words, cross-cultural differences are key factors in predicting speaking-out, the key dependent variable in spiral of silence research. As a result, we call for the return to a more macroscopic focus in spiral of silence research.

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