In any political system public opinion and pressure groups play a very significant role. There is various aspects of public opinion and pressure groups. Democracy derives its authority from the people, no government whether it is democratic or not, can afford to ignore the public opinion and pressure groups.
Meaning of Public Opinion
- The public is not a fixed body of individuals.
- The term public means a section of society sharing common interests.
- It holds similar views and opinions on matters of public concern.
Significance and Role of Public Opinion
Public Opinion is the expression of the views of citizens. The significance and role of public opinion can be explained as follows:
1. Guide to the Government: Public opinion acts as the guide to the government in respect of policy formation.
2. Helping in Law Making: Government is always under pressure of public opinion and takes note of the same in formulating laws for the common good.
3. Acts as a Watchdog: Public opinion acts as a watchdog. It controls and checks the government from becoming irresponsible.
4. Protects the Rights & Liberties: Public opinion acts as the protector of rights and liberties of citizens.
5. Acts as a Powerful Force in International Sphere: Public opinion has acquired worldwide importance; the international relations are influenced by public opinion.
Formation of Public Opinion
Political Socialisation: Political socialisation is the basic process through which every individual is oriented with respect to political issues.
Press: The print media includes newspaper, periodicals, pamphlets, journals, leaflets.
Radio and Television: Electronic media, radio, and television act as a mirror of social life.
Cinema: Cinema has been the traditional medium of entertainment and awareness. It cultivates new ideas and norms in the society on political and social problems.
Public Meetings: Public meetings or platforms are effective means of moulding public opinion for different social, cultural, intellectual, and political activities.
Political parties and their activities: Political parties formulate and organize public opinion. They are called mobilisers of opinion.
Opinion Polls: Opinion polls serve to indicate public opinion at the time of their being taken.
Educational Institutions: Include schools, colleges, literary clubs, study circles, universities, and libraries etc. They can mould public opinion to a great extent.
Hindrances in Formation of Sound Public Opinion
(a) Indifferent Attitude: People like to keep themselves away from political activities. They do not take interest in public affairs.
(b) Illiteracy: Illiterate people have a limited knowledge and they do not understand the political problems.
(c) Poverty: The poor are isolated from politics, and they do not find time to devote their attention to public affairs.
(d) Disharmony amongst various castes and communities: The people and political parties, in democracy must rise above the feelings and emotions of casteism and communalism.
(e) Free Press: Unbiased objective and independent press and fearless media play a very significant role in the formation of healthy opinion.