Date of Award

1-1-2011

Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Department

School of Journalism and Mass Communications

First Advisor

Lowndes F Stephens

Abstract

This dissertation utilizes the War in Iraq as a case study for an analysis of letters to the editor and public opinion polls, seeking to tie these representations of opinion to the concept of collective memory. With a three-pronged grounded theory approach, two working hypotheses and two research questions guided the research process. The first stage involved a textual analysis of letters to the editor written about the War in Iraq in the highest-circulating daily newspapers in each region of the United States (according to the Audit Bureau of Circulation figures) from 2003-2008 (drawing a random sample from each of the newspapers, N=6,301). The second prong of the research involved a comparison of the opinion found in the letters to the editor to the opinion found in selected public opinion polls. Several distinct polls found on PollingReport.com were included in the analysis. The third prong of the study examined the analysis resulting from the first two stages in an attempt to explicate the collective memory, which the two entities have the potential to create and sustain of the War in Iraq. While not necessarily designed to do so, letters to the editor and public opinion polls reflect the ideas of a large number of individuals which, when taken together and made stronger by their association, have the potential to represent the memory of the collective at specific, contemporary tracking points during events such as the War in Iraq. An original model of the role of each representation of opinion is advanced in Chapter Five.

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