What is Public Opinion ? (Characteristics and Formation)

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Today’s post will be on public opinion which will give everyone the details of how it can be practise and how it could help in any system of government of the state/country is practising.

Public opinion is done by the citizen at any level of adninistration be it organization, conferences and
most of all political level.

Public opinion may be defined as the collective beliefs, judgement or views held by majority of citizens of a country about public policy or action of the government.

It is therefore, refers to what members of the public think or feel about government proposed policy or action already taken by government.

The level of literacy rate in the country determines mainly how many people will be interested in public issues. In west African countries where majority of the citizens are illiterates only very few citizens are expresses their view on public issues. among the illiterates, there is general outcry against government policies or actions when there are shortages of essential commodities and social amenities majority of the people will hold the opinion that the government of the day is doing well when it (government) provides the basic social and economical needs of the people and therefore, there is no need of opposing any action or policy of government no matter how.

Therefore, public opinion may not always be the opinion of majority of the citizens in the country .
We talk of consensus of opinion when a large majority of the citizens hold the same issue on any view/issues.

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It is easy to establish or determine public opinion when there is consensus than when there are different and conflicting opinion. Examples of issues Nigerians expressed their opinion were on issues of whether abortion should be legalized or not in 1979 second republic, whether or not Nigerians should obtain IMF loan etc. Many Nigerians were very vocal in rejection of the two public issues that they were abandoned because, government listenened to public opinion in two issues.

Characteristics of public opinion
1. Issues of public importance are involved in public opinion.
2. The opinion is held or shared by majority of people of a particular country.
3. The opinion is expressed by private individuals and not by the government or any of its agency
4. In the formation of public opinion, communication and information play significant role.
5. Public opinion is dynamic, it changes from time to time.
6. Specific issues are focused in expressing public opinion rather than a general public issue.

Formation of opinion or how public opinion is developed or factors that influence public opinion formation or agencies of public opinion

1. The mass media: mass media like news paper, radio magazines, leaflets, etc, act as the cradle for the formation of public opinion. For instance, a tendentious newspaper editorial may go a long way in influencing the opinion of members of the public on an issues.
2. Rumours and gossips: many citizens not well informed may form their opinions from common rumours and gossips.
3. Pressure groups : these organized social interest groups are trying to influence government opinion  and policies.
4. Political party: political parties with the help of their manifestoes. Rallies, e.t.c act as the basis of public opinion formation in the country.
5. Politicians: politician through their sentimental speeches and press conferences persuade public people to form opinion on certain government policies or actions in their line.
6. Social background: The social background one finds himself influences him in forming an opinion, age, education, peer groups, family bacgroud e.t.c are encompass in the social background and determined the type of opinion citizens can form in the country.
7.government role: the type of explanation and education the governments gives to the members of public about its policies and  actions go a long way in influencing public opinion.
8. Influential citizens: citizens such as traditional rullers , intellectuals, tycoons, artistes and other influential citizens at the corridor of power act as public opinion moulder in a country.
9.lectures and symposia: idea on matters of public importance are expressed through holding of lectures and symposia.
Measurement or determination of public opinion

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Any sensitive. Government may from time to time know what opinion member of the public hold its policy and action. Other independent bodies may like to ascertain what the public is on certain issues. Public opinion can therefore, be measured or determined through the following ways:

1. Opinion polls: This is a method of asking questions from a selected sample of people and their view are use to represent that of the entire population. This can be done with the use of questionnaires or by interview.
2. Election: election serve as means of measuring public opinion on the popularity or otherwise of a government. In a free and fair election a government which public opinion favoirs , wins such election and vice versa.
3. Referendum: this is a method of referring political question or government policy to the electorate for approval or disapproval.
4. Through mass media: public opinion is also measured or determined through views people expresses freely in mass media.
5. Public response: public opinion can also measured or determined through the way members of public opinion responds to government policy through mass  protests and demonstration against or for such policies or programme.

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