Individual-level predictors of public outspokenness: A test of the spiral of silence theory in Singapore

Lars Willnat, Waipeng Lee, Benjamin H. Detenber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations


This study examines the influence of individual-level characteristics on the spiral of silence effect in Singapore. In a representative telephone poll of 668 adults conducted in Singapore in September 2000, respondents were asked to indicate how likely they would be to publicly discuss two controversial issues: interracial marriage and equal rights for homosexuals. Based on the assumption that outspokenness is largely a function of a person's psychological predispositions, the proposed model for predicting outspokenness adds a variety of new predictors, such as culturally influenced self-concepts, fear of isolation, fear of authority, and communication apprehension. Other more traditional predictors of outspokenness, such as a person's perception of the opinion climate, media exposure, issue salience, and demographics, were also included in the analysis. The findings provide partial support for the spiral of silence hypothesis. That is, the respondents' perception of the future opinion climate in Singapore interacts with their assessment of how important the issue is in influencing their level of outspokenness. The findings also indicate that outspokenness is associated with respondents' self-concept of interdependence, their fear of becoming socially isolated, their communication apprehension, and their perceived importance of the issue. Media exposure, however, is not associated with outspokenness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)391-412
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal of Public Opinion Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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