A Cross-cultural Test of the Spiral of Silence Theory in Singapore and the United States

Waipeng Lee, Benjamin H. Detenber, Lars Willnat, Sean Aday, Joseph Graf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


This study examines the influence of individual-level characteristics on the spiral of silence effect in two countries, Singapore and the United States, making it the first cross-cultural test of the theory and thereby addressing a gap in the literature highlighted by Schefule and Moy (International Journal of Public Opinion Research, 12, 2000, 3-28). In two identical, representative telephone polls of 668 adults conducted in Singapore and 412 adults in Washington, DC, respondents were asked to indicate how likely they would be to discuss publicly two controversial issues: interracial marriage and equal rights for homosexuals. The proposed model for predicting outspokenness adds a variety of new predictors, such as culturally influenced self-concepts, fear of isolation, and communication apprehension, along with other more traditional predictors of outspokenness, such as a person's perception of the opinion climate, media exposure, issue salience, and demographics. The findings provide partial support for the spiral of silence hypothesis in Singapore, but not in the United States. Respondents’ perception of the future opinion climate in Singapore interacted with issue salience to influence their level of outspokenness; American respondents did not exhibit such an interaction effect. In both countries, however, outspokenness was associated with respondents’ perceived importance of the issue and their communication apprehension. Media exposure was not associated with outspokenness in either country.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)205-226
Number of pages22
JournalAsian Journal of Communication
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Education


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