What is public opinion? Public opinion is an opinion held,by the people in several on any important question. This opinion must be based on reason and must aim at the good of the community as a whole. It cannot be called public unless it is substantially shared by the dominant portion of the community. This does not mean that all persons must think in the same way; all that is signified is that on fundamental points they must be in agreement. On non-essential matters they may differ, but they must be willing to co-operate with regard to essentials. And the things necessary for public opinion to be real are reason, care for the welfare of the community as a whole and acceptance by the dominant portion of the community.
This public opinion may be passive and false or active and real. When it is claimed in theory that all government is ultimately based on the opinion or sanction of the people, but we find in practice people’s rights trodden down like grass, we have an example of passive public opinion. Tyranny and oppression are allowed to continue not because the people want them but because they are too idle, too uneducated and too scattered to rise against them. It is passive acquiescence and not active opinion. But when we find a people alert, intelligent and ( determined to do for themselves what they have hitherto allowed’ others to do for them, when they want to have their voice in the management of third country, we have an instance of true public opinion.
What Is Public opinion And How Public opinion Is Expressed In Press,political parties,And Educational Institutions
Now this true public opinion is formed by and expressed through the press, the platform, political parties and educational institutions. These have got sacred duties to perform, duties on which depends the ultimate good of the community. Hence they should thoroughly realize their responsibilities. Nothing false of demoralizing should be preached by them. Their aim should always be to foster healthy public opinion. We all know what a tremendous influence the press or the newspaper wields now a days.
It states and discusses politics, supports the right movements and condemns the wrong ones and thus teaches people to form their own opinions. It also ventilate the public opinion on a particular question. The service which is done on a large-scale by the press is also done in a limited way by speeches from the platform. Political parties also help to create and regulate public opinion. No less important a part is played by educational institutions which train the minds of young men who will be the citizens of tomorrow. It has been said that modern Germany and China have been made by their universities and educational institutions.
The Modern Age Is The Age of Public opinion
The modern age is an age of democracy or “the government of the people by the people and for the people” as Abraham Lincoln says: The people want to make their voice heard and to manage their own affairs. So loud and incessant is the demand of the people who rightly or wrongly all states now claim to be based on the opinion sanction of the governed. Whatever they do they do it in the name of the people. The worst despots trampling down popular rights and interests, also take the name of the people to justify their action. In the name of maintain law and order, the people are throttled and emasculated and even then is heard from the lips of despots the plea that these things are done on the strength of public opinion and for the good of the people!
What Is Public Opinion, It Can be Exercised In every Field of Life
The field for the exercise of public opinion is as extensive as life itself. In every department of life there is room for it. But its potency :s most felt in the social and political spheres. There is no other way of purging society of an evil than through public opinion. Lord Bentick’s campaign against the suttee-rite could never been a success if public opinion had not favored it. Vijayanagar advocacy of widow remarriage failed because the public opinion was not ready for that innovation. Behind the achievements of all social reformers stands this public opinion.
But in modem times the power of public opinion is felt most keenly in the field of politics. It has assumed a strength hitherto unknown. It is no more possible for a present-day monarch, however despotic he may be,to say “I am the state”. It now serves as a check to official high-handedness and as a painter to the legislature, showing the way it should take. To a beneficent ruler it is a help, to an autocrat it is an insurmountable hindrance. With the awakening of the mass-mind it is assuming unthinkable shapes, growing more and more powerful and dashing against thrones and empires. Spain and Turkey and Italy have their epoch-making revolutions, the Czar of all the Russia was gone the mighty Kaiser was an exile.
Even old and dozing China had declared for a republic. Republics are cropping up everywhere and the air is once more filled with the cry, Long live the Republic. The days of autocracy,—the tendency to rule by mere force—seems to be over. A new stirring is felt every where. The slogan which was raised in the bloody dawn of the French Revolution—Liberty, Equality and Fraternity—is being heard in a clearer tone in every nook and corner of the world’.
Conclusion About The Power of Public Opinion
But great as has been the force of public opinion in modern limes, it is not yet fully formed. This is why the idea of Democracy,—the government of the people by themselves, all men having equal rights and privileges, the state existing for all—is worshiped, but the fact of democracy is deplored. It is essentially a spiritual awakening and when there is this true awakening in the people we shall have real and conscious public opinion. Then will come true democracy and the people shall manage their own affairs instead of being dupes or pawns in the hands of intriguing men.The days of obsolete ordinances will then be over .and the national life will not be starved to maintain an army for destruction. When all the things will be done by public opinion. Peace will reign on earth, and truly will the voice of the people be the voice of God.