Top 4 Essays on Public Opinion

Essay Contents:

  1. Essay on the Definition of Public Opinion
  2. Essay on the Utility of Public Opinion
  3. Essay on the Conditions for the Growth of Public Opinion
  4. Essay on the Agencies of Public Opinion

Essay # 1. Definition of Public Opinion:

Public opinion cannot be defined precisely. We are to know it rather loosely. It is an opinion of the people in general on the question of public interest. It is not the opinion of the majority. There is also no insistence on the unanimity. If the subject-matter of the opinion espoused by the majority is to further the selfish gains there is no public opinion involved in it. It also needs the support of the minority.

In other words, it may be the opinion of the majority but the minority should be in a position to accept it. This has been rightly stated by A. L. Lowell- “Public opinion is the opinion held by the majority and passively acquiesced in by the minority.”

If the opinion of the majority is directly opposed by the minority, it cannot be public opinion. If the opinion is detrimental to the interest of one class or at the cost of one community, it is not public opinion. The aim of the public opinion must be common good. It may be the opinion of the most intelligent section of the people but it must be in a position to do general welfare for all.

So it is said that the public opinion is the opinion of the right-minded citizens if it succeeds in winning the support and acceptance of a general body of citizens.

Essay # 2. Utility of Public Opinion:

Public opinion has a key role in a modern democracy. As a matter of fact, the other name of democracy is public opinion, because it is the public opinion that brings in the government and overthrows it. All the political parties dress themselves up to keep in tune with the public opinion.

A change in the public opinion may spell disaster for a political party, howsoever formidable that party may be. As for the government, it is tailor-made by the public opinion and must make laws as may suit the public opinion. More importantly, public opinion today is a world phenomenon.

The world is split on ideological grounds towards the right or the left way, i.e., the capitalist system of the USA and the socialistic system of China. As a matter of fact, both the blocs of power keep themselves abreast of the development in India and other developing countries and try to woo the public opinion. Thus we find that above the public opinion of a country there is today a world public opinion.

Essay # 3. Conditions for the Growth of Public Opinion:

The following conditions favour the formation of public opinion:

1. Proper Education:

Only an educated section of the people can understand the issues of public importance and share in public affairs. So eradication of illiteracy must be a constant drive to secure the most effective public opinion. If the people are not educated, the clever politicians may mislead them in a disastrous way.

Education does not mean that every individual should have high degrees of the university. What is needed is sound common sense. King Akbar the Great had no formal education. But he had excellent homework and sound common sense in the art of the government. A man should be in a position to understand what is good and bad for the general public. This is the basic or minimum education that is expected of every citizen.

2. Absence of Poverty:

Poverty is another handicap in the healthy growth of public opinion. If the people are too poor, they cannot have the ability to understand public affairs, let alone sharing them. If a person is to struggle for feeding his stomach by the toils of his labour days in and days out, how can he get time to think of the welfare of the society? The abject poverty incapacitates a person in forming public opinion.

This, however, may not misguide us to think that to share public opinion everybody must be very wealthy. What is necessary is a comfortable living in which there is no necessity of taking debt from others. A beggar in the footpath is definitely to be excluded from the realm of public opinion.

3. Unity of Interest among the People:

What is meant by unity of interest is absence of conflict among the people with regard to their respective interest When the people are divided over narrow communal and sectarian considerations, it creates a stumbling block for public opinion, Persons having different faith should cultivate goodwill and amity among all. When the citizens are plagued by narrow sectarian considerations, they are not entitled to become members of the club of public opinion.

4. An Independent and Impartial Press:

The press has to do its role of a watch-dog by exposing the sadistic deeds in the public. The newspapers must not be controlled by the government or any quarter. They should be independent and impartial. About impartial use of the press, Mahatma Gandhi wrote- “The newspaper press is a great power, but just as an unchained torrent of water submerges whole country-sides and devastates crops, even so an uncontrolled pen serves but to destroy. If the control is from without, it proves more poisonous than want of control. It can be profitable when exercised from within.”

According to William O’Douglas:

“Acceptance by government of a dissident press is a measure of the maturity of a nation.” It is the press that brings out to the public the hidden affairs which are of great public importance. Thus the people of India would not know of the inhuman incident of blinding the prisoners in the jail of Bhagalpur in Bihar but for the sensational disclosure in the Indian Express. It is for this reason that M. Hidayatulla said- “The press has been rightly described as the eyes and ears of the people.”

According to Vasant Sathe, the role of the press in a democracy could never be adversary to the government as emphasised in the western countries. It was considered the fourth estate or pillar of the edifice of democracy and a hostile attitude could be disastrous to the edifice itself.

The role of the press should be that of a true friend of the people as well as the government of the day. The criticism of a true friend is to help the friend, correct himself and not with the object of condemning or scandalising him.

5. Sound and Responsible Political Parties:

Political parties in the country must eschew violence, fundamentalism, sectarianism, religious bigotry, separatism and racialism or things of like nature. A model political party is one which has an healthy political outlook and economic programme. A good political party must appeal to the reason of the voters, not their emotions. The government should ban all- communal and separatist parties, since these parties, instead of doing any good to the community, is bound to ruin the community and the nation too.

Essay # 4. Agencies of Public Opinion:

Like food, water, air and medicine and the different factors that tone up a human body, there are some agencies or mediums that mould the public opinion.

These are discussed below:

1. Press:

Newspapers, press agencies, foreign correspondents and world news films have been in existence for a long time. A free press helps the government to get at least a glimpse of the mind of their subjects. To deprive it of this freedom is to deprive the government itself of a medium of knowing what passes in the mind of their subjects.

Thus the press must come out in the open to inform the government of the state of public feeling in the country. About the newspapers, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru wrote- “Newspapers are, of course, of all kinds. There are responsible newspapers; there are newspapers which are sometimes responsible, sometimes not. There are newspapers which are more irresponsible than responsible; there are some sheets which seem to excel only in flights of imagination and other acts of irresponsibility. Fortunately, the latter are not important.”

Rajiv Gandhi reiterated this in a more galvanising tone- “The fundamental duty of the state is to stand as the guarantor for the freedom of the press. What the corresponding responsibilities and obligations are is primary for the press to determine. The government is but a reluctant intervener in this matter and would not wish to act if the press itself remains alive to its responsibilities.” The news media should always project the situation correctly and should not hide or politicise the facts.

2. Platform:

Platform is another formidable medium for channelising public opinion. Platform means addressing the public in a public as in like a public meeting. Although a speaker through the platform cannot carry out extensive propaganda of his own, yet this is a very effective weapon to tear the hearts of the listeners.

The platform speeches have an edge over the newspapers in the sense that an illiterate or half-literate person, who cannot read the newspapers, can hear in the regional language the grievances pointed out by the speaker and at the same time suggesting ways and means to overcome those problems.

But the public speech has its inherent defects inasmuch as very often the speaker is swept off his feet by the upsurge of passion and he assails the other parties and their leaders in offensive language.

3. Radio, Cinema and Television:

The technological and electronic media are of recent growth. They have eclipsed other agencies by their more effective nature and more universal projections of news and views. Radio is more important than the newspapers because through radio we get the news and views from any corner of the globe almost instantly.

About the role of the radio as an agent of public opinion, Brimble and May wrote- “The radio has already demonstrated its almost limitless powers of stimulating world upheaval, thus showing what a very effective event for world cooperation and citizenship it could be in happier circumstances. During the last war it was probably the most efficacious of all means of propaganda. The very fact that the Axis leaders imposed severe penalties for listening in the verboten stations is indicative of the effect that radio can have on the population. If this modem product of science can be used so effectively in the propagation of war, how much more valuable can it be as an instrument for world peace and universal cooperation.” Cinema, which is primarily meant for entertainment, is also a modest way of disseminating the story of culture, social and economic events, not only of one country but all countries of the world.

Nobody needs to be told about the cinema’s power to move the audience and, in effect, it has come to embrace almost everything that matters in human life and affairs. It has often explored some profound sensitivity. We are also to admit at the same time that the silver screen has a bad side too since its recent trend is to give the accent on sex and violence. Even then, its educative value cannot be denied

Perhaps the television, or the Doordarshan, as it is called in India, is the most popular organ of linking the common people with the programmes in it, be it the funeral scene of Indira Gandhi or the Mahabharata serial. The live telecasting of the Olympic sports, the Prime Minister’s address to the nation on the Independence Day, etc. bring home the information more accurately and quickly than by any other media. It is now increasingly admitted that apart from providing entertainment, the television offers a great potential for education.

4. Educational Institutions:

The scope of educational institutions here-must include not only the schools, colleges and universities but libraries, literary clubs and study circles also. The students who undergo educational courses are of the age group of 5 to 20 which is the most formative period of a man’s life. At that age the students are prone to adopt new ideas quickly because of their very receptive nature.

So the curricula of the educational institutions must be character building and national spirited. The educational institutions should be free from political influence. With the introduction of 18 years as the voting age, the students are now supposed to play a very vital role in public life.

It is imperative that the school curriculum should contain political science – a knowledge of the machinery of government. The young students who are budding citizens must not take things for granted, but must know how they have come into being, must know their value and preservation whenever they are challenged. The young citizen should understand what underlies the appeals of democracy and of dictatorship.

It will be the bounden duty of the teacher to interest his pupils in the affairs of the modern world. Issues of public interest should be intelligently and dispassionately discussed as they arise. The teacher who leads such a discussion will give the students the useful information about all modern problems. Once inculcated in the individual pupil, this spirit will eventually permeate the whole school.

5. Legislature:

The most formidable forum of public opinion is the floor of the legislature where the most vital debates of national importance take place. The legislature is the political mirror of the nation. The people come to know of the proceedings in the legislature through the newspapers.

Now the Doordarshan televises live the proceedings of the legislature both in India and England. It is said that this kind of direct television is of great educative value for the people, who sitting home, learn the art of parliamentary debates and many issues touching on the vital life of the people.

6. Political Parties:

The political parties help in the formation of public opinion. In all democratic countries of the world every adult citizen has a right to vote, i.e., he can express his opinion on public matters at the time of elections. Various shades of political opinion are expressed by the political parties through their election speeches and leaflets. The citizens are given the opportunity to rally round any of such organised expression of views. Thus the political parties espouse the causes of a section of the public.

The opinions of the political parties are the organised expression of the views on vital issues of public importance. So R. G. Gettel rightly said- “In democracies they furnish the organisation, through which policies are formulated and political propaganda is carried on for the purpose of creating and influencing public opinion.”

To cap them all is the opposition parties that play a more pivotal role in galvanising public opinion. Can one presume to imagine that he knows the whole truth so that he would force his views down the throat of all others? So Mahatma Gandhi rightly said- “Evolution of democracy is not possible, if we are not prepared to hear the other side. We shut the doors of reason when we refuse to listen to our opponents, or having listened, make fun of them. If intolerance becomes a habit, we run the risk of missing the truth”.

According to Dr S. Radhakrishnan- “A democracy is likely to degenerate into a tyranny if it does not allow the opposition groups to criticise fairly, freely and frankly the policies of the government. But at the same time their right to criticise should not degenerate into willful hampering and obstruction of the work of parliament.” Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru is more emphatic- “Those who dislike criticism have no business to be in politics. A politician should have the hide of a rhinoceros, the wisdom of a serpent and the presence of a prophet.”

Democracy in England thrives because utmost consideration is taken by the ruling party about the views of the opposition parties. So Sir Ivor Jennings puts it in a jesting way- “The Prime Minister of England knows more the leader of the opposition than his own wife”.

In summing up we may use the words of William H. McNeill- “Since 1945 radio, television and newspapers backed up by schools, political parties and ultimately by the whole array of “modernising” corporate structures, have made most of the world’s human beings dissatisfied with their traditional lot in life and hopeful of being able to enjoy others, usually urban experiences, of whose existence and possibility they had scarcely dreamt before.”

SAKHRI Mohamed
SAKHRI Mohamed

I hold a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and International Relations in addition to a Master's degree in International Security Studies. Alongside this, I have a passion for web development. During my studies, I acquired a strong understanding of fundamental political concepts and theories in international relations, security studies, and strategic studies.

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