Agencies for the formation and expression of public opinion: In recent years, much attention has been paid to the study of the methods and means of influencing public mind, both in politics and in business. The agencies moulding and expressing public opinion are the following:
Family and other primary groups.
Family and other groups of immediate relationship, such ai friendly or neighbourhood groups, and occupation groups are the first ant very powerful influences in helping to form an individual opinions an< ideas. These influences constitute his or her personal experience, which may last all his or her life.
Educational Institutions, like schools, colleges, universities debating societies and the like are also some of the oldest means of formin public opinion. Education is no doubt a slow-moving process: it take nearly twenty years to educate a boy or a girl, but its effects are lasting am lifelong. The views and attitudes formed by the instruction and knowledge imparted in schools and colleges, last as long as one lives. As the educate people are the elite of the nation and its intellectual leaders, their views an< opinions become the opinion of the nation. They make and express public opinion as its originators, critics and moulders. Almost all the leaders o public mind come from the educated sections of the nation, the the periodicals and books.
Newspapers influence public opinion by thru editorials, their news and the method of presenting them, and by their view« and comments on the news. Newspapers can easily mislead public opiniim simply by suppressing or omitting certain kinds of news and by emphasising others or by presenting the facts in a distorted and unfair manner. Some newspapers endeavour to incite the baser elements ami pander to the baser instincts of human nature by sensational and hair> rousing news and comments. They are called the “yellow press”, which’ is« blot on our civilisation. Press must be honest, impartial and accurate. Abov|; all the press must be free; it must not be a monopoly of the vested intercsK or of the government. What we have said about the newspapers is still truer of the news agencies, since these are the primary sources of the news. If they distort or suppress news at the very source, opinion will be inevitably misled.
Public Speeches or Platform.
Platform or public speeches are another method of making and expressing public opinion. While the press is a modem device, the platform is the most ancient. It was practised by the ancient Greeks and Romani] Like conversation and canvassing, it is a method of face-to-face or personal propaganda. In this respect, it is far more effective than the other agencioi of indirect contact, like the press or the radio broadcasts. Unlike the prom, but like radio broadcasts, it reaches the uneducated as well. Spoken wot ill have greater effect on the listeners than the printed words on the reader* But it has its limitations. It is effective only as far as the voice of a speakof can reach, which, of course, is not very far. Moreover, the effect and value of a speech depends upon the personality, ability and oratory of the speakei. Lastly, public opinion can be properly formed by public speeches only when the country enjoys the freedom of speech and association. Without these freedoms various parties and citizens cannot express their views and criticise those of their opponents and thus enlighten the public about tin* problems of the country and of the mistakes and shortcomings of the patty in-power.
Political parties play the most important role in the formation and expression of the public opinion. Indeed, a popular government l|i inconceivable without them. They acquaint the people with all important questions and problems facing the country. They create public interest in all important matters of the day and thus shape the views of the people. Tlioy conduct election campaigns and put up candidates to win the election*! Above all, they organise public opinion, which is their most important function.
The legislature in the modern democratic State expresses and ds public opinion by its debates and discussions. Every legislative has an opposition party or parties. Both the government and ilion parties express their views and opinions on the floor of the house are reported in the daily press. The public outside takes interest in debates and are influenced by these views and opinions. Thus iimentary debates become a source of expressing and moulding public ion.