John R. Zaller (born 1949) is a political scientist and professor specializing in public opinion at the University of California, Los Angeles. He was an Editor of the American Political Science Review. He graduated from Saint Monica Catholic High School in Santa Monica, CA. He pursued his undergraduate studies at the University of California, San Diego. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in 1984.
Zaller is best known for his 1992 book The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion, in which he argues that changes in public opinion are due to the influences of political elites. Although he acknowledges the mainstream media's shortcomings, Zaller holds a positive view of "infotainment", arguing that even sensationalist and superficial media coverage of politics serves to inform and does increase awareness of political issues. Zaller teaches undergraduate classes on electoral politics and the mass media's influence on public opinion in election cycles as well as graduate classes on political behavior and intermediate statistical analysis.
His more recent work has focused on political parties in a new book with Marty Cohen, David Karol and Hans Noel (The Party Decides: Presidential Nominations before and after Reform. University of Chicago Press, 2008).
Zaller is currently working on a forthcoming book project covering open seat nominations to the House of Representatives with Kathleen Bawn, Knox Brown, Angela Ocampo, Shawn Patterson, and John Ray.
List of works
- The Party Decides: Presidential Nominations Before and After Reform, 2008, with Marty Cohen, David Karol and Hans Noel. University of Chicago Press.
- A Theory of Media Politics, How the Interests of Politicians, Journalists and Citizens Shape the News, 1999, unpublished.
- The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion, 1992, Cambridge University Press.
- The American Ethos, Public Attitudes Toward Capitalism and Democracy, 1984, with Herbert McCloskey, Harvard University Press.
Zaller has also authored numerous academic articles.
- The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion New York: Cambridge University Press (summary)
- "Who Gets the News: Measuring Individual Differences in Likelihood of News Reception" with Vincent Price. Public Opinion Quarterly 1993.
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