Posted by / Monday 4 April 2016 / No comments

The definition of Public Opinion and how it is measured

Girl, Read, Reading, Newspaper, Magazine

Public opinion can be defined as the sum/total of all the views held by the public on a particular issue at a particular time.

Measurement through elections
One of the ways in which public opinion is measured through periodic elections. In every democratic dispensation, those who run the affairs of the state need to be elected by the electorates. This way, the electorates express their opinion concerning who rules them.

Measurement through pressure groups
The activities of pressure groups can also be used to measure public opinion. Pressure groups employ demonstrations, strikes, and riots to drive home their opinions on a particular issue. These activities of pressure groups inform the government of the day or any interested parties, what people are thinking about a particular issue at a particular time.

Measurement through referendum
A referendum can also be used to measure what people feel about an issue. The practice involves the referral of a particular issue to the citizens to decide through the exercise of their franchise. The amendment of some clauses in a constitution necessarily need to go through a referendum. Whatever decision is expressed at the referendum reflects the opinion of the people.

Measurement through public opinion polls
Opinion poll involves the use of a certain representative number of people and asking them questions on a particular issue. Their responses are then analyzed to arrive at what percentage of people are saying what on a particular issue. This method is used to measure the opinion of the people on any policy of the government or any other matter of national importance.  

Measurement through Recall
In some democratic jurisdictions, a non-performing member of parliament could be withdrawn by those who voted into office and replaced by another person before the end of his/her term of office. This is done through a process called a recall.  This recall process is also another way in which public opinion is measured.

Measurement through the Mass Media
The mass media is a time tested avenue through the citizens of a country express their views on issues of importance to them. The mass media includes radio, television, the press and more recently, the Internet. Through the activities of these media outlets, the people are able to convey their perspective on a matter to the people concerned. So the mass media helps in the determination of the opinions of the people.

1. a. What is Public Opinion? [2 marks]
    b. In which five ways can public opinion be measured? [10 marks]
2. Highlight six ways in which public opinion can be measured. [12 marks]

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