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The English term "public opinion" dates back to the seventeenth century work by John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, which contains an early consideration of the importance of public opinion in the ordering of politics. The term was derived from the French word l’opinion, which was first used in 1588 by Michel de Montaigne.<ref>Wolfgang Donsbach, The International Encyclopedia of Communication. Wiley-Blackwell, 2008</ref>

This concept came about through the process of urbanization and other political and social forces. For the first time, it became important what people thought, as forms of political contention changed.

It was introduced by James Madison that for a government to be democratic, it would be essential to have strong and knowledgeable citizens that hold educated opinions that could be shared and expressed.<ref name="Bianco, William T. 2013">Bianco, William T., and David T. Canon. "Public Opinion." In American Politics Today. 3rd ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2013.</ref> Active citizens would then use this knowledge to participate in their government, while also being able to inform other citizens of current issues. In terms of political science, public opinion is defined as being “the aggregate of public attitudes or beliefs about government or politics”.<ref name="Bianco, William T. 2013"/> Public opinion is considered to be the factor that guides an indirect democratic government. It is only through the approval of the public that a government gains the authority to function. Public opinion is thought to develop from these main sources: “political socialization, education, life experience, political parties, the media, and the government”.<ref name="Bianco, William T. 2013"/> Public opinion is considered a dynamic part of today’s government. Continually changing, it has the power and influence to shape the government in new ways.


Public opinion sections
Intro  History  Concepts  Formation  Role of Influentials on Public Opinion  Relationship between opinion and public policy  See also  Notes  Bibliography  External links  

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