Public Discourse and Scientific Controversy: A Spiral-of-Silence Analysis of Biotechnology Opinion in the United States

TitlePublic Discourse and Scientific Controversy: A Spiral-of-Silence Analysis of Biotechnology Opinion in the United States
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsPriest, SHornig
JournalScience Communication
Date Published2006
Publication Languageeng
ISBN Number15528545
KeywordsBIOTECHNOLOGY , Community , DISCOURSE , ethical , Genetic , JUDGMENT , PUBLIC , reasoning , SOCIAL , spiral , United
AbstractSpiral-of-silence theory tries to account for the dynamics through which visible dissent decreases as public opinion begins to appear hegemonic; it argues that fear of social isolation inhibits the expression of opinions perceived to be in the minority. This analysis applies spiral-of-silence theory to public opinion about biotechnology in the United States. Although comparisons to Europe may disguise this fact, a substantial minority of United States citizens have reservations about biotechnology and genetic engineering. Our exploratory analysis reveals some evidence that a spiral of silence developed for these issues, as well as uncovering more willingness to speak among those who believe themselves more knowledgeable about science and differences in willingness among groups who apply different forms of moral reasoning to biotechnology issues. The results have implications for recognizing the privileged position of consequentialist or utilitarian arguments about science and technology in United States society. 
NotesPriest, Susanna Hornig 1; Email Address:; Affiliation: 1: Associate professor and director of research, College of Mass Communications and Information Studies, University of South Carolina.; Source Info: Dec2006, Vol. 28 Issue 2, p195; Subject Term: BIOTECHNOLOGY; Subject Term: DISCOURSE; Subject Term: PUBLIC opinion; Subject Term: JUDGMENT (Psychology); Subject Term: SOCIAL isolation; Subject Term: COMMUNITY life; Subject Term: GENETIC engineering; Subject Term: REASONING (Logic); Subject Term: UNITED States; Author-Supplied Keyword: biotechnology; Author-Supplied Keyword: ethical issues; Author-Supplied Keyword: public opinion; Author-Supplied Keyword: spiral of silence; NAICS/Industry Codes: 541711 Research and Development in Biotechnology; Number of Pages: 20p; Document Type: Article