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Public opinion is one of the oldest and most widely invoked concepts in the social sciences and has many meanings and controversies associated with it. The concept of public opinion has evolved during the past three millennia as the notion of democracy evolved. Public opinion plays a central role in democracy, and, as such, the ability to “measure” public opinion accurately has become a critical endeavor for modern-day democracies.

Historical and Philosophical Background

The concept has origins in early political philosophy dating to the writings of Plato, who was mainly concerned about the mercurial nature of crowds and the problems associated with direct democracy. Aristotle is often cited on the point of the collective wisdom of the group being wiser than individuals', but he was not in ...

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