Public Opinion and Political Dynamics

Public Opinion and Political Dynamics

Public Opinion and Political Dynamics

Public Opinion and Political Dynamics

Excerpt

It is a truism that public opinion influences government among all peoples. Indeed, there can be little doubt that government is founded upon the consent of the governed, whether its form be totalitarian in the most modern sense, dictatorial in the manner of yesteryear, or democratic. One of the major problems confronting the political analyst is the definition of "consent," "popular will," and "public opinion." For example, it is not erroneous to say that government among the modern totalitarian states is based upon popular consent, if the analyst qualifies his remark by noting that the term "consent" in this connotation has a different meaning than when employed by the democrat. Government resulting from the planned use of force, and from the manipulation of carefully distorted or even fabricated propaganda, is none the less based upon the acquiescence of the people misled by it. The facts of ignorance, lethargy, and obedience induced by fear do not lessen the essential truth that consent has been engineered by the government.

The purpose of this book is to attempt an analysis of the nature of public opinion and its role in democratic and other societies. Accordingly, every effort has been made to see beyond the purely technical problems involved in the study of opinion, the dissemination of propaganda or the measurement of its effect. At the same time, it is hoped that enough consideration has been given these important subjects to satisfy the elementary student and to acquaint him with the scope and nature of the field.

More than half of the work has been devoted to analysis of the relation of opinion to government, to definition of the terms "opinion" and "public," and to the major forces, social and psychological, which affect the formation of opinion. In particular, emphasis has been placed upon the nature of ideological forces (here considered under the title of "social myth") which are so important in shaping the thought processes and consequently the opinions of . . .

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