Honors Gov: Public Opinion

PblicOpinion2     Public opinion is commonly defined as the sum of many individual opinions about a public person or issue. Three views to consider on how public opinion come to be shaped are:

Public opinion is shaped by special interest groups. Some believe that public opinion is less about what individuals think and more about what the special interest groups they belong to advocate. Because many such groups represent large numbers of people, they are listened to when they speak out on issues.

Public opinion is shaped by journalists, politicians, and other opinion makers. Those who support this view observe that most of us don’t have time to become informed on every issue. Instead we look to influential opinion makers for information and advice. These opinion makers may be journalists, public officials, business leaders, or activists. Because they have access to the media, “their” opinions often become “our” opinions.

Public opinion is shaped by what politicians say it is. This last view recognizes that politicians often talk about “what the people think” without evidence to back up their claims. They may sincerely believe that they have their fingers on “the pulse of the public.” Or they may hope that by claiming that the public agrees with them loudly enough, they will convince the American people that it must be true.

However, public is seldom a single view held by all Americans. The U.S. is simply too large and diverse for that to be true. Public opinion serves our democratic system of government in three key ways. First, it guides leaders as they make decisions about public policy. Public opinion also serves as guard against hasty or poorly understood decisions. Lastly, public opinion serves as a kind of glue in a diverse society like ours. Widespread agreement on basic political beliefs holds our society together, even in times of intense partisan conflict.

Honors Gov Homework:
1. Constitution Unit Test – Fri 11/1
2. SSA Health Care Paper – due Friday 11/1



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