Polls and Public Opinion

Public opinion represents the collective views of all private individuals in a society. As democracies purport to serve the public’s interest, governments, media, and public officials often feel it necessary to heed public opinion. However, since the views of the people are privately held, we need a means to measure them. This is the function of polls and surveys. Thus, journalists and media often report on polls to contrast public opinion with the views of public figures.

This entry discusses polls, their development and application, and how they apply to the practice of journalists. The entry also discusses public opinion, particularly its formation, effects, and complicated relationship with polling. Modern polling and the study of public opinion have their roots in horse-race polling. In early horse-race ...

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