Manipulation and Consent: How Voters and Leaders Manage Complexity


248 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7748-0424-6
DDC 324.9





Reviewed by Eric P. Mintz

Eric P. Mintz is an associate professor of political science at Memorial
University of Newfoundland.


The classic studies of public opinion concluded that the majority of the
electorate is politically unsophisticated. However, in this careful
study of British Columbia voters at the time of the 1979 provincial and
federal elections, David Elkins finds that most voters have a
sophisticated understanding of the three issues individuals considered
most important. Following the approach of Philip Converse, Elkins
assumes that most people develop knowledge of a few issues, thus
creating “issue publics.” The implication drawn by Elkins is that
the views held by members of any one issue public are not easily
manipulable by political leaders; thus public opinion, as expressed
through the various issue publics, has an important effect on political

Beyond making important contributions to the debate on the political
sophistication of the electorate, this book also provides a thoughtful
analysis of related topics such as issue voting, election mandates, and
strategic voting. Unlike many studies based on survey research, the book
is accessible to the “statistically challenged.” It can be highly
recommended to those interested in public opinion, political behavior,
and democratic theory.


Elkins, David J., “Manipulation and Consent: How Voters and Leaders Manage Complexity,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 23, 2024,