Public opinion holds an essential role in society. It mediates and accommodates social integration and social change. As a normative force it nurtures integration and stability. As a mechanism of aggregate foresight it paves the way to social and political change. Public opinion is thus a multidimensional phenomenon. In addition to its evaluative attitudinal fact, it comprises a strong normative component, a prospective informational one, and an expressive behavioral element (Shamir & Shamir, 2000). A fuller understanding of public opinion thus entails not only the tracking of the majority opinion, but also of the normative opinion - the opinion perceived to be the majority opinion. Similarly important are people’s expectations of future events and developments, as well as overt verbal symbolic and behavioral expressions of opinion.
Traditional Definitions of Public Opinion.
Traditional senses of “the public” include beliefs, attitudes, and opinions about the following: • Affairs related to the state, the government, or broad social institutions. • Something that is open and accessible to everyone.
• All the people who are affected by an event, policy, or decision. While “private” actions concern only those who participate in them, “public” actions affect both participants and the rest of the people either directly or indirectly.1
• Something that is of common concern.
• The public good, as opposed to the private interests of individuals who represent only a segment of the broader public.
Modern Definitions of Public Opinion.
The modern sense of public opinion is multi dimensional and has the following characteristics: • It represents only one prevailing opinion among many possible ones. • It tends to be transitory.
• It refers to the opinion that seems to be the most dominant, widespread, or popular, even though there will always be a plurality of existing public opinions. • It relates to “action or readiness for action...