February 22, 2014

The Role Of Public Opinion In A Democracy

Essay : [The Role Of Public Opinion In A Democracy]

English Essay on "The Role Of Public Opinion In A Democracy"

The Role Of Public Opinion In A Democracy

In a democracy, opinion is an active, propelling factor. The people regard the government as an agency to which they have delegated power with-out reading it from the obligation to respect the general will of the people. The opinion of a people is made up of different views or currents of sentiments in a society some currents, says Bryce, develop more strength them others, because they have behind them large numbers or more intensity of conviction; and when one. is evidently the strangest, 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 on opinion which a people in general hold on questions of common interests at a certain time.

Who constitutes a people According to Said, not everyone within a community can he regarded as contributing to the formation of the public opinion. But yet the whole adult population, irrespective of voting rights and irrespective of citizenship, generally shares in the formation of the public opinion.

The opinion of a community is seldom unanimous, George Cornwall Lewis points out how there appears to be no alternative to counting the numbers and abiding the opinion of the majority.(4essay.blogspot.com) According A.B. Laurel, the success of this somewhat mechanical method depends upon the minority of accepting the validity of decision, after a full and free discussion. Unless there is an ungrudging acceptance of the consequence of electoral decision, consensus would .disappear and the democratic system undermined or upset.

On major issues of common interest there is often a variety of views, some of which may be confused or incoherent. Discussions and clarifications can diminish such confusion and diversity so that interconnected views gradually lake definite shape of there, the view which is held by an apparent majority of citizens is called the public opinion. All opinions, points out Lowell, involve a choice between different views which may be rational, or based on conviction, or these may proceed from feeling and emotion of the various agencies that help 'in the formulation of public opinion; the people must be considered first. Among the human beings, some play more prominent part than others. They may be referred to as the formulators of public opinion. They are the persons who seriously occupy themselves with public affairs whether in the capacity of legislators, or journalists, or and infiltrators, or professional politicians. To this list may be added the scholars and researches that specialize in various aspects of public life. Taken together, these persons form a small minority or the community; yet it is this person who makes and would public opinion by giving their reactions to policies and Went as they Occur. Next, there are people whose interests or sense of civic duty makes them given study attention to public affairs. They can differentiate also help, in spreading such opinion as they like and favor.

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 pubic interests. They usually accent readymade opinions from others, from a leader, or a neighbor, 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 Rausseau on the eve of the French Revolution. Public opinion, nowadays works as the watch dog of democracy.(4essay.blogspot.com) However, it is' very difficult to know what exactly public opinion refers to lets meaning, is very often misunderstood. Many people consider public opinion as the opinion if the public i.e. people in majority. But public opinion is not that. Discussed in simple terms Public opinion may be called as the opinion of the people in general on the questions of administration or general welfare. According to Lord Bryce, public opinion stands for views men hold regarding matters that affect the interests of the society or nation state. Prof. Said defines public opinion in his book Public Opinion and Government. In order that public opinion may not just be majority opinion, it is necessary that while the majority may not share it, they feel bound to it by conviction and if democracy is complete the submission of minority must follow ungrudgingly.

As opinion to be regarded as public must be the opinion of the people. It may also be the majority opinion. but it should he meant for the good of all sections of the public. Public opinion is always impelled by the idea of 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. For example a good number of people who are drunkards may not like to approve the policy of prohibition, though it is meant for the common good. Hence their opinion may not be regarded as public opinion because they are motivated by self interest. On the whole an opinion even if the opinion of a small group of people which contributes to common good is treated as public opinion.

The importance of public opining cannot be under estimated in a democratic state. A government in which public interests are neglected cannot be called a democratic government. In a democracy it is desirable Thai there should be provision for representatives 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 is absolutely necessary for successful working of a democratic society.

The following considerations need be kept in mind.

1) Illiteracy is a curse for a good society. Therefore people should be educated that they can develop an interest in the community by exchanging ideas.
2) Minimum Economic Standard must be achieved so that people can better perform their responsibilities. 'And formulate better opinions.
3) Homogeneity of Interest among the people should be propagated as equality of aspirations and interests can prove the way for a healthy public opinion.
4) A healthy public opinion stipulates the minority community to have the opportunity to express its thoughts freely.
5) The newspapers and the communication media like Radio and T. V should keep their thoughts well balanced for the betterment of the peaceful people.

The success of a democratic government largely depends upon the formulation of an effective and healthy public opinion. Healthy public opinion alone can make possible a proper relation between the voters and enable the representative to ensure the control of the people on the government and vice-versa. Therefore every democratic country must provide due opportunity of freedom of thought and expression of opinion.
The following agencies particularly contribute the formulation of enlightened public opinion,

1. NEWSPAPERS-Unbiased newspaper ate the since qua non an enlightened public opinion. The editorials of the newspapers offer guidelines to the country. The intellectuals express their opinions to the people through the newspaper.(4essay.blogspot.com) They also subject the actions of the government to criticism if they are against the wishes of the people and express opinion against such activities. The government must heed public opinion and make changes in its policies where necessary. Newspaper generally gives an, overall impression of the socioeconomic cultural and political activities of the state and the society. Very often people formulate their opinion on the basis of the comments of the newspapers; but sometimes newspapers disturb the formulation of a social-public opinion by distorting the actual facts and by confusing the issues.

2. RADIO, CINEMA AND T. V.- The influence of newspaper is confined to the educated masses. Large numbers of people who are illiterate do not read newspapers. However they are influenced to a great deal by the various programs of radio and television. Now a day’s television has surpassed the role or cinema and radio. The people can hear the speeches of leaders on nation’s subjects on the television on burning issues. Their views on the problems of the country reach every nook and corner and people are kept informed about the recent changes ill the country. The various plans and programs of the government at the centre and in the states or provinces can be made known to the people through radio and television. People can thus formulate their opinion on the basis of the information’s and programs they see on the television or hear on the radio. Cinema also plays an important role in fot1nulating the public opinion. Maximum care is also taken by the Ministry of information and Broadcasting in producing documentaries which carry good socio economic and cultural information.

3. EDUCATIONAL INSTITU710NS- School, Colleges, Universities, study circles, seminars, symposia etc, are also important for the formulation of public opinion. Education policies, programs, lectures, debates, discussions, literary societies etc. which are highlighted by various educational institutions tremendously influence for the formulation of the public opinion. In turn, the ideas acquired ill educational institutions greatly influence the character of the students. It is here that he tak.es to lofty ideals of citizenship. Fulfillment of one's duty and consciousness of the rights are the gifts of educational institutions. Due to the knowledge acquired here, a student is able to imbibe the ideas and ideals expressed by teachers' of wisdom the educational institutions infuse high national character among the students.
4. PUBLIC MEETINGS Public meetings are also a strong area for the formulation of public opinion. the leaders of the country often organize public meetings at various places, especially in big and important cities and towns of the country and discuss important issues and problems before the public, such glimpses are telecast by the T. V.

5. POLITICAL PARTIES- Political parties are the foundation stones of a democratic government. They educate the people through their planned programs. Different political parties try to find out the best possible solution to some of the important problems forcing the country through a process of critical assessment of government policies. They churn and return the various issues and find out the best solution to problems. Their ideas and wisdom are published in the papers and people can know of these. In fact political parties based all political and economic ideologies contribute a lot to the formation of enlightened public opinion in the country.

6. LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLES- The discussion in the legislative assemblies too contribute to the formulation of public opinion in the country. The published materials are read by the people with great interests. In the legislative assemblies and in the parliament learned people of various parties express their opinions on current issues and problems which greatly influence the public mind and in this way become the basis of the public opinion.

7. RELIGIOUS INSTITUTIONS-Religious institution also shape and influence the public opinion. Throughout history religion has tamed wild passions, refined man's soul, and energized man to advancement. Man is a moral being whose ascent as against Darwin's descent, is towards the Divine. He must therefore, strive to free himself from racial intolerance, mechanical fatalism and pseudadeterminism. Islam is a religion attends to human nature satisfying the genuine needs of human beings.

8. POLITICAL LITERATURE-Experienced people in the Country' write book and essays and critical commentaries Oil various socioeconomic political subjects and create various sorts of literature. The educated section of the country makes use of this literature in the formulation of its opinion. Democracy is real only when there is a strong effective public opinion.(4essay.blogspot.com) We may reiterate the statement of Rousseau Voice of the people is voice of the God .

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 prevailing view of the •role public opinion in a representative democracy is based on the following assumption-

1 The public has keen interest in public policy.
2 The public is capable of making rational conclusions.
3 The opinion is really popular throughout the society.
4 The opinion is strongly supported by the general public and is fit enough to be taken up for approval during elections or otherwise.
5 Public opinion deserves to be enacted into law.

The government in a democracy has to pay due attention to public opinion, It may either respect and abide by it or ii may try to control it. Even authoritarian governments pay attention to it but their attention means exercise of rigid control over agencies of public opinion, with the object of direction its flow in the desire 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 favorable 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 it is an organized scheme for the propagation of ideas systematically and canvassed among people, so that it moulds the public opinion. In common usage it is associated with one sided presentation of a point of view, often appealing to emotions rather than to reason. Hence even false hood is indulged in by interested parties or leaders. In democracies there is more or less enough atmospheres for all sides of a questions being presented, in order that individuals might make balanced judgments. In authoritarian societies, the persons in power present one point of view only, often half-truths and arguments instead of facts, with readymade conclusions to flow from them. Propaganda is thus called an effort to manufacture public opinion to a single group interest.

Democrats realize the importance of propaganda. This has led to the growing importance of public relations men. Different agencies, including government offices of communication (like the press, the radio and TV) provide up to date information to influence the formation of a healthy and balanced public opinion.

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