Monday, March 29, 2010
Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann died last week at the age of 93. She was a remarkable public opinion scholar, perhaps best known for her spiral of silence, which described why some in the minority on some issue might be unwilling to speak out, and as fewer in the minority speak out, a spiral occurs, and minority viewpoints disappear. Fear of isolation was a driving motivation for some to not speak out, and she also posited a "quasi-statistical organ" that suggested people are constantly monitoring the opinion climate. The theory had a significant impact on political communication research.