Public Opinion And Democracy

Author: Aparna Shukla, a student at Chandigarh University

What is Public Opinion?

The origin of the term “public opinion” is unknown. The Greeks and Romans used parallel representation. However, the Romans treated the consensus popularly as different from the current political context in the legal sense. The word “Vox populi, Vox Dei” was also used in the Middle Ages. Also, in the discourse on Livy, Machiavelli compared the voice of the people with the voice of God. The concept of public opinion was later introduced by France into the vocabulary of European politics, as it is today understood as an authority to regulate public order and morals. Jean-Jacques Rousseau was probably the first person to use it on the eve of the French Revolution. Today, in fact, the democratic literature symbolizes the rationalization of public opinion-related political behavior. Quoting MacIver, “This constant activity of public opinion is the driving force of democracy.”

The role of opinion in government is well recognized. Bryce said: “Opinions were the most important and ultimate power in almost all cases. The government has always rested. Except in exceptional cases, without affection, one must rest with the tacit consent of the majority. In undemocratic governments, people tolerate or agree out of respect, habitual obedience, or fear of oppression of authority. But a distinguishing feature of democracy is that government authority is built, controlled, and conditioned by the power of active public opinion.

How should Public Opinion be Defined in Light of these Conditions? 

To follow Finer, most definitions of public opinion mean one of three things: 1. A record of the facts. As a record of the facts, the opinion means a statement as simple as “the Soviet Union detonated a super-bomb.” 2nd belief. As a belief, opinions mean not only records of facts, but their evaluation. It also contains predictions about future courses for the event. The sentence “There should be no war in Berlin’s problems” makes this clear. 3. will. As evidence, opinions are more than just factual records and assessments. It also insists on a series of actions. For example, if you ask, “India should have a war with Pakistan over the Azad Jammuir issue-yes or not?” We believe that a series of actions is worth pursuing. In the realm of political dynamics, public opinion is intended to produce concrete government

policies. Therefore, as Finer points out, “when public opinion works at will, politics is the most concrete and usually culminates in statues and administration.”

Traditional Concepts of Public Opinion 

In the latter half of the 41st century and the beginning of the 20th century, the traditional concepts of public opinion became widespread. It was built on the simple generalization that millions of people can reach a consensus on various issues such as taxes, labor law, and foreign policy and form public opinion. As Lieber defined, the power of public opinion is “the senses and emotions of the community, and it is irresistible to show that power everywhere,” which “gives meaning to the letters and lives of the law. Shell.” The public opinion considered in this way presupposes the existence of a stable, unified, and homogeneous public sphere in the background. That was Rousseau’s idea. He envisioned a male society that was generally sincerely enlightened, positive for their own political interests, and freed from a coalition of factions. Obviously, he regarded public opinion as one and inseparable. Some similar ideas can be found in the writings of many modern writers. As E. M. Sait observed, “when we call an opinion” public opinion, “there is no doubt about what we mean. Given the long-standing use of the language, we consider it to be the opinion of the community and the opinion of the people.

Importance Of Public Opinion

  1. Almost everyone relies on newspapers for the facts related to the formation of public opinion. Newspapers are available at very low prices, so their impact on public opinion formation has skyrocketed with the spread of mass education. Most newspapers publish details of legislative debates, celebrity speeches, government and political party announcements, and a variety of other news. Not everything is political. But nevertheless, political facts are certainly best for consumption. Therefore, all newspapers strive to collect political news and then cook delicious food. Presenting the facts is not the only function. Their interpretation and systematization from a certain point of view is also done by newspapers. Almost every newspaper has a “trend and doctrine.” These are highlighted in the edit column. The very way news flashes elsewhere in headlines and columns betray the unique character of newspapers. Readers read the news enthusiastically and partner with certain newspapers. Complaints will be broadcast and opinions will be expressed by the general public through newspapers. For this purpose, most newspapers offer several columns for the average reader. News and views are not always overlooked. The government is paying attention to them and carefully examining the public reaction to the measure through the mirror of the newspaper, which plays an important role.
  2. Movies and Radio Movies and Radio are important institutions for communicating ideas. Only educated people can be influenced by newspapers. However, thanks to audiovisual techniques, movies and radio can also affect people who are illiterate. In developing countries like India, where illiteracy is widespread, these media are very helpful in promoting mass education. However, those possibilities are not fully exploited. For example, cinemas continue to be an almost exclusive means of entertainment. Being privately owned, it is typically used for commercial purposes rather than educational purposes. Nevertheless, with the production of excellent documentaries and other educational films, the film can certainly be used as a means of education and opinion formation.
  3. Political parties The most important institutions for forming opinions are political parties. To use Lowell’s often quoted phrases, the parties are idea brokers. They provide people with facts and ideas every day. Their sole purpose is to have people on their side. They want to win a majority in the legislature and hold the reins of the government. Therefore, “the Contracting Parties coordinate the issue of voting by the people.” Get their perspective, develop supporters, and develop candidates. People are cultivating the backbone of democracy. A service worth performing at a party is to organize people and allow them to choose from choices. Various accusations were filed against political parties. Their honesty and usefulness have often been questioned. But without it, it cannot form and properly use public opinion, which is the main driving force of representative democracy. 
  4. Platform speech is a very useful tool for educating and shaping opinions. Therefore, all democratic governments guarantee the right to freedom of assembly. Speeches made at public meetings can leave an indelible mark on the listener’s mind. All kinds of speech skills are used to influence public opinion. Brutus can gain temporary praise and permanent fame for Antony. Nevertheless, good political leaders have begun a process of public reflection on important political issues. 
  5. Educational Institutions Educational institutions are very important to the formation of public opinion. The way students are trained in school and college has a major impact on further courses in life. Early-developed ideas determine student attitudes. These training courses are aimed at stimulating and enhancing curiosity. But educational methods that rob students of their open minds and paralyze them with many political half-truths are certainly harmful.


The role of public opinion in a democracy is ultimately determined by the outcome of the struggle between beliefs and facts. Recently, through the subtle manipulation of the opinion-forming process by interested groups, a fundamental distinction has been made between what people believe and what they are. Facts are mercilessly misrepresented and often appeal to people’s blind emotions and prejudices. The process of fact corruption is completed when only one powerful group or capitalist controls a large opinion-forming body such as a newspaper or radio. This is how public opinion helps to create democracy and government for people, for people, and by people.

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