This study is based on a survey conducted by the author in a rural community in Egypt (a) to determine how mass media messages reach the population, (b) to identify opinion leaders, and (c) to assess the relation between mass media exposure and political awareness.
The data from this survey were used to test the two-step flow of communications hypothesis of Lazarsfeld and colleagues and to compare the effects of the mass media and opinion leaders on the public. Analysis of the data did not support the two-step flow of communications hypothesis; instead it was noted that the greater the exposure to the mass media, the more direct is the flow of communications.
Opinion leaders reached a smaller and less educated section of the population and were found to be the elected and official representatives of the village organizations rather than shopkeepers, teachers, and clergy. Finally, it was found that opinion leaders were specialized, each conveying policy information relevant to his role in the community. The flow of communications was found to be functional and organized rather than casual and haphazard as is usually the case in transmitting non-functional information.
The last part of this article deals with the relation between exposure to the mass media and political awareness. Indices were constructed to give each respondent a score on the degree of exposure to the mass media and another on his level of political awareness. Analysis showed that mass media exposure and political awareness are directly related (r = .53). It was also found that those who had direct access to the mass media were more sensitized to political news than those who had no such access, thus underlining the politicization role of the mass media.
Finally, the article compares the degree of correlation between mass media exposure and political awareness with similar correlations obtained in rural areas in Latin America.