By: Kennedy Covington

opinionleader

The influence of opinion leaders

Opinion Leaders Set the Agenda

If the agenda setting theory is the idea that the media tells the public what to think about, then how does that content reach the public… through opinion leaders. This is part of the Two Step flow model which proposes that the media is heard by opinion leaders who pass on information to their followers.

 

The Institute of Education Sciences reported on the different medium forms that they received its information. After gathering extensive data on opinion leaders it reported:

  • medium: in radio, television, magazines, newspapers, and Interpersonal communication “political opinion leaders receive more information about candidates from _____(medium form) than do nonleaders”
  • age: “political opinion leadership is greater for middle aged persons than for young or old persons”
  • sex: “the incidence of political opinion leadership is greater for males than for females”

After researchers collected this data they concluded the significance of this information for the media regarding campaigns stating:

  1. campaigns should inform, influence, and carefully choose opinion leaders to in turn relay a specific message to the public
  2. newspapers, televisions, and interpersonal communication are more efficient than radio, and magazines in educating voters about politics
  3. campaigns should target males between 31-35 years old as this group encompasses the majority of opinion leaders

Social Media, Opinion Leaders, & The Agenda

socialmediaopinionleaders

Social Media: The New Opinion Leader?

As society becomes more entwined with technology the role of social media continues to grow. Many argue that social media is taking the role of opinion leaders today by and conclude:

  • social media like opinion leaders sway their audience to believe information presented and consequently behave certain ways
  • advertisers target social media similarly to opinion leaders, to pass along information to their target groups

Another article published in the International Communication Gazette reported a similar yet broader idea deducing that mass media in general may has taken the role of opinion leaders due to our countries advanced technology. Contrastingly, an article published in The Oxford Journals argues face-to-face communication of opinion leaders is very meaningful to influence voting patterns and opinions of the public. It continues by inferring that without this face-to-face communication information held by leaders would never make it to the nonleaders.  Finally, yet another school of thought argues opinion leaders transmit information to different groups among different social boundaries.  

As the to who opinion leaders actually are and the role they play is unclear, it is changing along side media. Opinion leaders determine how political messages and politicians are viewed which impacts who the public ultimately votes for.

 

Sources:

Agenda-Setting and Mass Communication Theory

How is Social Media Playing the Role of an Opinion Leader Today

Media Consumption and Population Characteristics of Political Opinion Leaders

The Media of Mass Communication- John Vivian

The Social Capital of Opinion Leaders

Opinion Leaders in the Electorate