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date: 23 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

An increasing array of political communication scholars and political scientists now include interpersonal communication as part of their models. The central theoretical foundation for much of that work owes much to two long-running works of literature directly intersecting in, and stemming from, Katz and Lazarsfeld’s 1955 Personal Influence: research on the two-step flow and investigation of information diffusion. Consequently, a broad overview of political communication theories calls for a discussion of the theoretical underpinnings of the two-step flow (and its linkage to diffusion), major findings to date, and future directions for research. This essay provides such a discussion. While evidence has suggested a somewhat more complicated picture of the sequence of information and influence flow than described in the earliest formulations of the two-step flow hypothesis, the general theoretical orientation suggested by that tradition continues to be relevant to political communication in the 21st century.

Keywords: two-step flow, opinion leader, diffusion, social network, viral marketing, social media, word-of-mouth, campaign, conversation, talk

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