In judging the presence of public opinion, we must consider the virtues that an individual should uphold. If these virtues contribute to the summative opinion, then we would conclude that public opinion exists. The virtues are the ability to make the right judgment in a situation, the prudence to be able to discern potential harmful ideas, the eloquence that one would use to present his or her ideas to others for perfect understanding, the courage to help one stand above the forceful opinions of others, self-reliance to trust that one can contribute to an argument, resourcefulness which means that one has a bank of knowledge in a particular topic of discussion, and finally common sense for one to stand right in every decision he or she is making.
What influences public opinion is the kind of groupings that people belong. The reason is that people would want to live with people like themselves. They therefore end up forming islands of communities, based on the common ideologies they hold. Other things are the resources available to people. These are what Schudson (n.d) puts in two categories; the internal an external resources. On the internal resources he explains that these are the educational credentials in an individual. This is what we have earlier on referred to as the resourcefulness in a person. The others are the external resources. These are the press, party, and electoral procedures. The press influences the opinions of people by what they feed to their minds always. The party plays a major role. This is because when people affiliate themselves with it, they almost take wholesomely the party’s opinions. Even though this seams a collection of individual’s ideas, to come up with a sum total, it is paradoxically not. Every time people come up with a conclusion in an argument, it never reflects the wish of an individual. The universality in public opinions always negates the differences in individuals.
Entman and Herbst (2001) also share in the idea that public opinion is not really a collection of individual‘s ideas. They say that it is always an infiltration from media. The process of selecting information and highlighting the wanted content is critical to coming up with the media reports. It the very process, many other facts that may be important are deleted. This makes it all near to fiction. There are several assumptions taken when an idea is preferred, basing on the majority. If that is to be taken in as a policy, such an opinion will not take into account all other negative possibility outcomes. Affirmatively, when people appeal to public opinion, they select some reality of the hard things-to-know about the individual, and consequently leaving out many that might be essential. Let’s look at what the media does. It selects spectacular scenes and occurrences and presents these as the general public opinion. They for instance, take the elites of the society, and consider only what they have in mind, thereafter conclude that that is the public’s opinion. That is usually very erroneous. This disqualifies the fact that the opinion of ordinary citizens can be better than what they say.
They further explain that, the public opinion is formulated basing on two major things. The first one is the mass opinion, which has its source from referenda, opinion polls, and election. This makes people cue to a certain conclusion without rational scrutiny of the idea. This means that people luck the knowledge behind the idea and so they need education for it. The second thing is the Perceived Majority. These are the perceptions the majority of people hold. These are the elites, the media, and also the members of the community themselves.
On the other hand public opinion comes from the fact that man is a social being and wants to be with others. Man has an outward orientation that makes him want to associate with other people. This is how Noelle-Neumann (1984) agues. This makes him susceptible to the opinions of others. In this, man reflects on the opinions of others to find a place that he fits perfectly. This makes man unable to run away from the public opinion.
We have to accept that public opinions plays a big role in mans life. This is when we focus on social part of man. Since that is his nature, we therefore can not do away with public opinion. We also cannot embrace public opinion with all its deficiencies as we have seen in our discussion. What we need to do is to create a balance of the two extremes. Basically, this will happen by equipping people with a repository of knowledge from which they will learn to make rational decisions. A sum of similar conclusions made by a people after subjecting options to rational decisions makes up a good public opinion.