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7.0 Introduction

Public opinion means the views of the people relating to certain general or specific questions. As James Bryce puts it in his Modern Democracies, public opinion expresses the will or desire of the people, no matter how they arrive at it. Thus public opinion is an essential and integral part of a democracy, since a government by the people, is basically a government in accordance with the will of the people.

In all political situations, varying public opinions may exist, owing to the various groups involved. For example, when the President makes a speech on labor legislation, it is interpreted differently by union members, businessmen, union leaders, farmers, Democrats, and Republicans. The whole process is greatly complicated by the different attitudes that people have because of their economic and social status, their group loyalties, their occupation and their degree of understanding. In the long run public opinion is the strongest force in a political community. Generally an educated population does discuss controversial public problems. Different solutions are carefully considered as policy decisions are influenced by the opinions of the people. While political institutions cannot dodge public opinion, the people may not always have the last word on important decisions. Though a majority of the Americans for example are all for holding prayers in public schools, the courts passed judgments against the practice. People on authoritative positions in a political structure, public opinion cannot be ignored, as it is the means of communicating the concerns and interests of the entire community.

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7.0 - Introduction
7.1 - How Public Opinion Is Measured
7.2 - Political Socialization
7.3 - Social Background And Political Values
7.4 - Political Ideology
7.5 - How Public Opinion Is Formed

Chapter 8

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