Lazarsfeld's Legacy| Beyond Marienthal: The Relationship Between Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann and Paul F. Lazarsfeld

Ralph E. Schmidt, Thomas Petersen


In 1960, Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann and her husband published a new edition of the seminal Marienthal Study by Marie Jahoda, Hans Zeisel, and Paul F. Lazarsfeld that had first appeared in Germany in 1933 but had largely been forgotten ever since. In the wake of this publication, which sparked a discovery of Lazarsfeld’s pioneering work in German-speaking countries, a mutually inspiring relationship developed between Lazarsfeld and Noelle-Neumann. On the basis of previously unpublished correspondence, the exchange of ideas between the two is retraced in this article. The topics of discussion included methodological issues, such as panel studies; theoretical issues, such as the function of opinion leaders; and institutional issues, such as the respective role of public and private opinion research. The two authors also reflected upon the complementarity of American and European traditions in social research that is exemplified in their collaboration. It may be gathered from the correspondence that Lazarsfeld’s research program provided a blueprint for Noelle-Neumann’s endeavor to transform German Publizistikwissenschaft [science of public communication] from a humanistic into an empirical social scientific discipline.


empirical turn in Publizistikwissenschaft, history of communication research, media effects research, opinion leaders, public opinion, spiral of silence

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