Populistic Deliberation and Talk Radio

Benjamin I. Page, Jason Tannenbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


In modern mass societies much political deliberation is mediated by professional communicators, who may fail to represent the values of ordinary citizens. This analysis of the 1993 withdrawal of Zoe Baird as nominee for U. S. attorney general suggests, however, that when this occurs, direct popular intervention through alternative media sometimes reshapes political discourse and policy-making. Relying heavily on official sources (and perhaps misled by communicators' own class positions), most mainstream media supported Baird and predicted her confirmation, even after the revelation that she had hired illegal aliens and failed to pay their Social Security taxes. Only an outpouring of public outrage, expressed in calls to radio talk shows and senators' offices, and confirmed by national opinion surveys, turned the tide against the nominee. In this paper, we discuss the conditions under which such uprisings occur.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-54
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Communication
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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