The present study integrates two concepts: the notion of opinion leadership, as conceptualized and measured by the Strength of Personality (SP) scale, and the agenda-setting process. Thus, we suggest and test a two-step flow model in which certain individuals, the influentials, identify emerging issues in the mass media and then diffuse these issues to others via their personal networks. Based on a series of six national surveys conducted in Germany (1990) measuring issue salience and various personal characteristics, this study highlights the role certain individuals play in the emergence of the public agenda. The degree to which individuals can be influenced, measured by the SP scale, is found to be a powerful predictor of the formation of personal agendas, with high SP individuals differing from others in their identification of emerging public issues. However, the analysis reveals the complexity of these relationships: they depend on the obtrusiveness of the issue, and they vary over time and location (East or West Germany). The findings encourage the empirical pursuit of the suggested 'two-step flow model' as applied to the agenda-setting process.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science