Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Public Opinion as a Source of Deinstitutionalization: A 'Spiral of Silence' Approach

Clemente, Marco and Roulet, Thomas (2015): Public Opinion as a Source of Deinstitutionalization: A 'Spiral of Silence' Approach. Forthcoming in: Academy of Management Review (January 2015)

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Abstract

This article develops a theoretical model to explain how public opinion can lead to the deinstitutionalization of a practice. Our model draws upon the ‘spiral of silence’ theory, that originated in the mass communication literature, and which suggests that social actors tend to support majority views. At the micro level, this behavior triggers a spiral of silence that leads to homogenous public opinion. We use analogical reasoning to posit the existence of a spiral of silence at the institutional field level. When public opinion becomes hostile to a particular practice, institutional fields tend to resist this external opposition. Insiders face the dilemma of whether to align with the majority view expressed by public opinion, or to comply with the one expressed at the field level. After discussing the mechanisms by which insider voices mediate and diffuse the hostility of public opinion at the field level, we discuss the boundary conditions applicable to our analogy. Our paper advances the understanding of nested and connected climates of opinion and bridges the gap between insider- and outsider- driven deinstitutionalization.

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