Two Step Flow

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The concept of the “two-step flow of communication” emerged from The People’s Choice, the American voting study conducted by Paul Lazarsfeld and his colleagues at the Bureau of Applied Social Research at Columbia University (Lazarsfeld, et al. 1948, cited under Emergence of the Two-Step Concept). These researchers observed that “ideas often flow from radio and print to opinion leaders and from them to the less active sections of the population” (p. 151). Thus, they suggested the flow of information and influence from the mass media to their audiences was taking place in two steps: from the media to the opinion leaders, and from opinion leaders to the public. This model certainly called into question most of the assumptions of the “powerful media” notion by revealing the limits of media influence while highlighting the role played by personal influence and especially by certain individuals—the opinion leaders. These ideas caught the attention and imagination of a new generation of researchers who opened a new theoretical and empirical vista. The bibliography of the two-step flow model and the opinion leadership conceptualization extends from the early discoveries—the “golden age,” when hundreds of studies in various areas provided empirical evidence—to modern criticism and modifications related to the new media environment.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOxford Bibliographies in Communication
EditorsPatricia Moy
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherOxford University Press (OUP)
StatePublished - 2016


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