Looking for opinion leaders: Traditional vs. modern measures in traditional societies

Gabriel Weimann, Deon Harold Tustin, Daan Van Vuuren, J. P.R. Joubert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Since the introduction of the opinion leadership conceptualization, both practitioners and academics have been keenly interested in its applicability in modern society. Numerous studies have been conducted to identify potential opinion leaders, learn of the characteristics distinguishing them from their 'followers,' and understand how they exert their personal influence to change opinions and behaviors of the masses. Despite the growing research on opinion leadership, the identification of appropriate opinion leaders for practical purposes continues to be a challenge. Several methods were used to identify opinion leaders. The existence of numerous methods and their use in various societies, social settings and cultures and the variance across domains of opinion leadership raises questions on the applicability and validity of the modern, advanced measures when applied to other social settings. The present study is in fact a first attempt to apply the modern personality strength (PS) scale to a traditional community. The PS scale was found to be an efficient, valid, and useful instrument to identify opinion leaders in numerous studies. However, it was always used, tested, and validated in Western societies (e.g., Germany, USA, and Israel). When we applied the method in the Skukuza community, a small village in South Africa, the findings revealed the inapplicability of the scale in a traditional community. Several factors are suggested to explain the futility of the PS scale in a traditional society.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-190
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Public Opinion Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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