Public opinion as a source of deinstitutionalization: a 'spiral of silence' approach

Marco Clemente, Thomas J. Roulet

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We develop a theoretical model to explain how public opinion can lead to the deinstitutionalization of a practice. Our model draws on the “spiral of silence” theory, which originated in the mass communication literature and suggests that social actors tend to support majority views. At the micro level, this behavior triggers a spiral of silence that leads to homogenous public opinion. We use analogical reasoning to posit the existence of a spiral of silence at the institutional field level. When public opinion becomes hostile to a particular practice, institutional fields tend to resist this external opposition. Insiders face the dilemma of whether to align with the majority view expressed by public opinion or to comply with the one expressed at the field level. After discussing the mechanisms by which insider voices mediate and diffuse the hostility of public opinion at the field level, we discuss the boundary conditions applicable to our analogy. The article advances the understanding of nested and connected climates of opinion and bridges the gap between insider- and outsider-driven deinstitutionalization.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)96-114
Number of pages20
JournalAcademy of Management Review (AMR)
Issue number1
Early online date2 Sept 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


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