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Zerback, Thomas and Fawzi, Nayla (2017): Can online exemplars trigger a spiral of silence? Examining the effects of exemplar opinions on perceptions of public opinion and speaking out. In: New Media & Society, Vol. 19, No. 7: pp. 1034-1051 [PDF, 193kB]


In modern media environments, social media have fundamentally altered the way how individual opinions find their way into the public sphere. We link spiral of silence theory to exemplification research and investigate the effects of online opinions on peoples’ perceptions of public opinion and willingness to speak out. In an experiment, we can show that a relatively low number of online exemplars considerably influence perceived public support for the eviction of violent immigrants. Moreover, supporters of eviction were less willing to speak out on the issue online and offline when confronted with exemplars contradicting their opinion.

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