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The Silent Majority in Communist and Post-Communist States

Opinion Polling in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe

Edited By Klaus Bachmann and Jens Gieseke

This book takes stock of opinion polls in communist and post-communist states, presents specific case studies and answers the question how opinion polls under conditions of censorship and lack of media pluralism differ from those in liberal democratic societies. These polls were mostly used by the ruling establishment to observe shifts in popular opinion and to anticipate protests. They were hardly presented publicly to inform citizens about the prevailing views in their society. Today, these polls often display stories about everyday life, opinion shifts and the legitimacy of state institutions which cannot be derived from other sources.
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Surveys on Media Usage in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) Institutions, Validity, and Outcomes


1.  Introduction: Why did the East German communists need polls on media usage?

The title of this chapter sounds like a contradiction at first glance. Why should the East German communists have been interested in knowledge on media usage? There are two obvious reasons for the rise of surveys in the Western media industries. First, advertisers ask for a proof that broadcasts aren’t just aired but perceived and papers not just printed but read. Advertisers also ask for the audience’s composition: How old are the users, are they male or female, what kind of cars do they like, and what other brands could we promote at best? There is a second form of administrative research on media usage aiming at the product and at the journalists: How can we improve our daily, our magazine, or our programme in order to satisfy the users more than we did before? Here, Europe’s uncontested pioneer was the BBC which had been carrying out applied listener research with a great deal of success since the late 1930s (Joeressen 1964). However, in West Germany, social research on media usage was not introduced by media companies such as broadcasters or publishing houses but by the Western allies, notably the USA and the UK. All three Western military governments established survey departments that, inter alia, addressed the policy of democratization. It is evident that these departments focused on the usage and evaluation of papers and radio programmes founded by the military governments (Crespi...

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