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mirage  asked in Social ScienceSociology · 1 decade ago

How can we examine "Public Opinion" in its historical progress?

How did "Public Opinion" arise? What is "Public Opinion" basically? Why did its meaning changed after 19th century?

2 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
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    Prior to the 18th c., roughly speaking, there was very little interest in the opinions of the broad mass of people, because they had little impact on governance. As democracy, literacy (to be able to read newspapers), and the right to vote spread out to include people other than property holding males (and in the US, white males to boot), then two trends developed.

    One was that more people had access to information that, more or less, allowed them to form opinions on public issues. The second was that those opinions now mattered politically. So, public opinion is the range of opinions held by the broad public on public issues. It is sometimes referred to in a singular case, as in, "Public Opinion has turned against the war in Iraq." This is to suggest that the median, or average, of opinions has shifted against the war, while the opinions of given individuals may have remained the same.

    There are ways of tracing historical changes in "public opinion," though they are rough, and certainly don't approach the accuracy of modern polling. One is to look at letters written back and forth between people. Another is to look at newspapers, with accounts of speeches and debates, and of course, their own articles, editorials, and letters sections.

    We can, for example, see shifts in people's opinions of slavery in the US, or on issues of parliamentary reform in Britain over large swaths of time, and in response to certain activities or events. We do, however, have to accept these as 'rough' or approximate indications of what other people likely thought about an issue.

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  • 1 decade ago

    In early days (as with modern days) the study of peoples opinions ties very closely to the study of behavior

    Peoples behavior is influenced by "what they believe" from which- public opinion is formed (consider the power of the media or those serving in positions of trust who's "representations" are related to us by the media) obviously engineered opinions are common via the media as in days of old when they would burn witches or earlier throw Christians or people to the lions

    It was an engineered opinion that resulted in the conclusion that somebody was a witch rather than a human (like all of us)

    And it was an engineered opinion that resulted in the consensus to deal with what was perceived to be a problem by this cruel and hopefully unusual method -

    So the behavior "resultant" from "public opinion" is probably a more interesting study than "public opinion" in general and would/has been used accordingly throughout history?.

    Public opinion for example- could be manipulated to encourage a Nation to War

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