Public Opinion

Public Opinion is, according to most authors who deal with the subject, a pan-cultural phenomenon, that is, a phenomenon that appears in any society, at any time, and regardless of the political or social system that identifies a particular culture. Still, it is in the liberal democracy, the prevailing political model in modern western societies, where public opinion attains to its highest relevance. In the democratic model, public opinion is regarded – and unanimously accepted – as the only legitimate source of political and social power. The battle for the public opinion is at long last the battle for power, social influence and moral legitimacy. But public opinion is not only relevant within the limits of politics. Also in the world of business, the value and the future of corporations directly depend on their image in the public opinion.

To understand the true nature of the phenomenon called Public Opinion is necessary to go beyond the concrete contents of public opinion at a particular time, in a particular society, and regarding a particular issue. It is necessary to recognize the social conditions and individual features that make possible the apparition of a public opinion in practically every cell of human coexistence. The Phenomenon must be analyzed from a micro- and a macrosociological point of view, that is, students shall learn the effects of public opinion on the individual, as well as its social function. The public opinion is in a state of constant change. This mutable nature is maybe its most characteristic feature. Therefore, it is necessary to know the social-psychological mechanisms that control or just influence public opinion dynamics. They can explain us how a particular opinion arises, becomes public, and finally disappears and is replaced by another different point of view in the public preference.

The most important opinion research techniques will also be discussed in the course. Students will learn the different ways to find out tendency and direction of the public attitude regarding a particular issue. Opinion polls also give us information about currently accepted and prevailing moral values.