You might also be familiar with the phrase “public opinion” and you may also have an idea about it. But what do we really mean when we say public opinion. In this article we will be talking of its definition. Public opinion is defined as the aggregate of individual attitudes or beliefs. In some cases, it can also be defined as the complex collection of opinions of many different people and the sum of all their views or as a single opinion held by an individual about social or political topic. It is also mans public consensus, as with respect to an issue or situation. But did you know that over time, the meaning of public opinion has changed dramatically? One of the factors that could prove of its changes is the article that political scientist Susan Herbst wrote a bout. She said that “Formalized tabulation of political opinions began in the city-states of ancients Greece, where elections were viewed as central components of the democratic process. Yet it was not until the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that qualification became a significant element of political discourse in the West.”
There are also different types of public opinions. One is the “Opinion Intensity”, which measures how strongly and intensely people feel about an issue or a politician. Some people may feel strongly against the issue or will support the issue. Those issues will polarize and divide the public. Second type will be the “Opinion Saliency”, this measures the extent to which issues are important and relevant to people’s lives and values. One of the common and perfect examples is the political environment and economic circumstances will often dictate what issues are important to people. Saliency ranks relevant issues in order of priority; also, it will often give a misperception as to which number of people takes which side of an issue. Let me give you one perfect example – Abortion. In this case, people will be divided in to two groups that will be the minority group and the majority group. Even if only a minority of people holds one view on an issue, that minority of people will feel strongly and very intense to that issue and the issue will be more important to the majority group than to the majority.
Lastly will be the “Opinion fluidiy.” This type of opinion measures the extent to which opinion changes over the course of time.