Opinion leadership types or continuous opinion leadership traits?

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Abstract

Opinion leadership is typically conceptualised as a continuous personality trait. However, many authors adhere to the view of qualitatively different opinion leadership types and apply arbitrary criteria to split continuous trait scores into two groups (i.e., opinion leaders vs. non-leaders). The present study is the first to empirically evaluate this approach. A sample of N = 3812 adults (67% women) was administered a validated opinion leadership scale. Finite mixture models examined whether the latent trait distribution can be represented by a set of discrete trait levels that reflected distinct opinion leadership types. The results did not give support to a discrete typology that distinguished leaders from non-leaders. Rather, opinion leadership was best characterised as a continuous trait.

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