Essay No. 25:
The Role Of Public Opinion In A Democracy: In a democracy, opinion is an active, factor. The people regard the government as an agency to which they have delegated power with-out releasing it from the obligation to respect the general will of the people. The opinion of people is made up of different views or currents of sentiments in society.
Some currents, says Bryce, “develop more strength than other, because they have behind them large numbers or more intensity of conviction; and when one is evidently the strongest, it begins to be called public opinion par excellence being taken to embody the views supposed to be held by the bulk of the people”. Public opinion is thus an opinion which a people in general hold on questions of common interests at a certain time.
A large majority are indifferent to public affairs, knowing little and thinking even less the demands of earning a living in a competitive society are said to leave him with little time for consideration of public interests. They usually accent ready mad opinions from others, from a leader, or a neighbour, or someone else for whom they have regard.
It is important to study public opinion in order to understand the working of the democratic government. The origin of the theory of public opinion goes back to the time to Greeks, Romans and the French revolution. In fact that actual phrase “Public opinion” was first used by Rousseau on the eve of the French Revolution. Public opinion now a day works as the watchdog of democracy.
As opinion to be regarded as the public must be the opinion of the people. It may also be the majority opinion, but it should be meant for the good of all sections of the public. Public opinion is always impelled by the idea of the common good or general welfare. An opinion may be regarded as public when it is motivated by a regard for the welfare of the whole society. Public opinion is rarely marked by unanimity. This is because some sections of society may be selfish and may not approve of anything that is contrary to their interest.
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The importance of public opinion cannot be underestimated is a democratic state. A government in which public interests are neglected cannot be called a democratic government. In a democracy, it is desirable that there should be provision for the representative of the people in law making and law enforcing bodies. It is these representatives who should establish contact with the people and study their aspirations. An alert and intelligent public opinion are absolutely necessary for the successful working of a democratic society.
Basically public opinion in a democracy is expected to represent the ideas of a large majority. But these ideas are popular only when the minority agrees to accept them peacefully. Besides, public opinion should represent sound judgment based on accurate information.
The government in a democracy has to pay due attention to public opinion. It may either respect or abide by it or it may try to control it. Even authoritarian governments pay attention to it but their attention means the exercise of rigid control over agencies of public opinion, with the object of the direction its flow in the desired direction. Democratic governments also try to influence public opinion through various agencies.
Hostile public opinion creates great difficulties in the working of a government. All governments try to maintain favour-able public opinion. Since public opinion comes to be determined mostly by the intellectual leaders, governments try to influence these leaders and agencies through which public opinion gets organized and expressed. In democracies, governments also try to gauge public opinion through various means influencing the public opinion by vested media.
“The Role Of Public Opinion In A Democracy”