Tyranny of the Perceived Majority: Polling in the U.S. News Media Before the Invasion of Iraq
Quantitative and qualitative methods are used to analyze media content about polled support for the invasion of Iraq before it took place. A tendency for journalists to emphasize data suggesting majority support rather than opposition is identified, and an associated perception of a
pro-war majority is seen in letters to the editor. Analysis contrasts conceptual and methodological imprecision attending discussions of public opinion with numerical precision in survey data, arguing that a scientific reading of poll results should not be equated with public opinion. A perceived
pro-war majority aligned with a pro-war political climate is explained in terms of a distinction between scientific, instrumental, and symbolic readings of polls, the mediated nature of public opinion, and symbolic power.