Pipers Woerterbuch zur Politik

Authors: Nohlen
Summary: In approximately 700 words the entry introduces the term as one of the most diversely described ones in different epochs, cultural circles and disciplines, consisting of a mix of theoretical, empirical, and normative elements. The entry distinguishes between pluralistic, elitist, critical, and media concepts of public opinion, and distinguishes public opinion from public opinion polls. The Pluralistic school founded by Fraenkel views public opinion mainly as the referee in cases of interest conflicts, deciding on who should rule. Hennis elite approach distinguishes between the polled opinion of the masses and the public opinion of a group of informed, rational, and towards the common good oriented citizens. From a media perspective, public opinion refers to the reality established by the mass media or the opinions of those with access to the media, while others view the opinion of those in power or the opinion of those publicly criticizing the rulers as the public opinion. All these conceptions are very different, and the entry argues that the only common aspect is that a distinction is made between the polled opinion of the masses and the respective concept of public opinion. Because of the variety of conceptions, the entry ends with a call to abandon the term altogether.