A Note About: Spiral of Silence Theory


The Spiral of Silence founded by Noelle-Neumann suggested that

  • People who believes that they hold minority viewpoint on a public issue will remain in the background where their communication will be restrained.
  • People who believes that they hold majority viewpoint will be move encouraged to speak.

Because of this, she contends that media will focus more on the majority view. At the same time, they will underestimating the minority views.

  • Those in the minority will be less assertive in communicating their opinions. It will leading to a downward spiral of communication
  • Those in the majority will overestimate their influence. The media will report on their opinions and activities.

Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann believes that

  • Those in majority have the confidence to speak out
  • Holders of minority views usually cautions and silent


  • The spiral of silence is a theory that explains the growth and spread of public opinion.
  • The founder (Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann) defines public opinion as “attitudes one can express without running the danger of isolating oneself”.
  • The term Spiral of Silence refers to the increasing pressure people feel to conceal their views when they think they are in the minority.
Spiral of Silence Theory
Figure: Public Opinion as Communication by the Media


One: Society Threatens Deviant Individuals with Isolation – Fear of Isolation Is Pervasive

  • Noelle-Neumann believes that the very essence of our society depends on people commonly recognizing and endorsing a set of values.
  • It is public opinion that determines whether these values have equal conviction across the population.
  • When people agree on a common set of values, then their fear of isolation decrease.

For example: Freedom to smoke was (and continues to be) an issue. In the presence of non-smokers, many smokers were less willing to support smokers’ right.

Read: Condolences – Contoh Ucapan Takziah in English

Two: The Fear of Isolation Causes Individuals to Try To Assess the Climate of Opinion at All Times

The theory identifies people as constant as lessors of the climate of public opinion. Noelle-Neumann contends that individuals receive information about public opinion from 2 sources.

  • Personal observation – People are able to do by listening to the views of others and incorporating that knowledge into their own viewpoints. Personal observation of public opinion can often be distorted and inaccurate.
  • Media – The media effects are frequently indirect. People are inherently social in nature, they talk about their observation to others.

People seek out the media to confirm or disconfirm their observation and they interpret their own observation through the media.

Three: Public Behavior is effected by Public Opinion Assessment

  • The public behavior is influenced by evaluations of public opinion. Noelle-Neumann proposes that public behavior takes the form of either speaking out on a subject or keeping silent.
  • If individual sense support for a topic, then they are likely to communicate about it. If they feel the others do not support a topic, then they maintain silence.
  • In sum, people seem to act according to how other people feel.

Read: Everything You Need – Social Penetration Theory


There are 3 major role of mass media

  • It is believed that the media accelerate the muting of the minority in the spiral of silence.
  • Mass media is powerful in shaping the mind of its society
  • It could change one’s perceptions and believes.

Noelle-Neumann believes that

  • The media even provide sometimes biased words and phrases. So, people can confidently speak about a subject. If certain words or phrases are favored by the media, then many people will fall silent.
  • The public is not offered a broad and balanced interpretation of news events. Consequently, the public is given a limited view of reality. This restrictive approach to covering cultural events and activities narrows an individual’s perception.


Noelle-Neumann describes 2 types of individuals who form vocal minority that remains at the top of the spiral in defiance of treats of isolation. She calls them as a:-

The Hard-Core

Those who have been overpowered and relegated to a completely defensive position in public. Already beaten down, they have nothing to lose by speaking out. People in the hard core cling to the past and regard isolation as the price they have to pay.

The Avant-Garde

The intellectuals, artists and reformers who form the vanguards of new ideas. They seek public response even though it is usually negative

The hard core and avant-garde minorities as the only hope for future swing in public sentiment.

Spiral of Silence Theory example. Spiral of Silence Theory diagram