The Making of Public Opinion in Democracy and Dictatorship

The actual process of the formation of public opinion depends upon the constitutional and political structure of a State, whether it is democratic or dictatorial. In a democracy the process of opinion formation is highly complex. It begins at different levels of intellectual and political life when it is confronted with various kinds of living issues and problems with which the country is faced both of the internal and of international nature.

The general public is more often than not uninterested in them, excepting those which are of interest to the people in one way or the other. It is the political leaders of the parties, their supporters, collaborators and other leading members who are interested or involved in them. But they are always divided into two or more parties and leaders, who take differing views of the political issues and problems. There are also various interests or pressure groups, who have, however, vested interests in solving the issues and problems in their own way.

Their aim is not public discussion of them but to put pressure on the government or lesser authorities and also on the various political parties and leaders to accept their interests or solutions as national interests by these political decision and policy makers. The various political panics and leaders are opinion-makers directly or indirectly and their supporters, collaborators and other leading members are transmitters and communicators of the opinions and policies adopted by their leaders. All the political parties and their leaders, whether supported by interest or pressure groups or not, go to the people in their millions and offer them their views and solutions of the political issues and problems and their policies.

They arouse the popular interest in them, form their opinions on them and seek their support for their solutions and policies in order to win their votes at the time of elections. In this whole process, which lasts for years, decades and generations, especially in between two elections, the various party leaders, their supporters, collaborators and their party members and sympathisers communicate their party views on national and international matters to the people through their party and other newspapers, magazines, make speeches on public platform, and talks on radio and television, or through books, booklets, posters, and by all other means and methods of private and public communication and propaganda.

In all these activities, the political leaders, politicians, party members and other publicists are really communicators of opinions of the various kinds of publics or points of view. Very few of them are originators of these opinions. They really begin with views, theories, philosophies and writings of the intellectual classes or intelligentsia who are interested in politics directly or indirectly, such as philosophers, thinkers, writers, ycrs, jurists, professors of social, biological and natural sciences, daily of Political Science and of its various divisions and sub-fields, as I as the views, comments, reviews and discussions of the editors, inentators, correspondents, article-writers, reviewers and others of the ious newspapers, magazines and general and specialist journals.

The itical leaders and leading workers of the political parties, the politicians all other political activists of various parties adopt these views, theories, ilosophies, and points of view which are acceptable to their political es and their party platform, while other leaders and parties adopt the site theories, philosophies, views and points of view. There may, of rse, be some creative political leaders or activists who may present a or more original solution or views or theories or adoptions of the views theories and philosophies of the academic and non-academic thinkers, ters and philosophers. Most of the political leaders are, however, not ginators but adopters and communicators of the views and theories and ilosophies of the intellectual classes, both within and outside the colleges universities. But being practitioners of politics, they are better municators than the political thinkers, philosophers or writers, luding the journalists and editors, although they are much nearer the ctical politics than are the academic writers, thinkers and professors.

These are the multifarious sources of political thought, views and ries and philosophies, when adopted by the political leaders, activists d parties, which influence the people or the various publics into which the pie are divided. They thus become opinion-leaders and opinion-makers, t of as many colours and hues as there are parties and leaders active in itics. Now all this is possible in a democracy. It is because civil liberties (I fundamental rights are granted to the leaders and to the general public, ere is ebb and tide in the politics of a democracy, which corresponds to holding of general elections.

After an election, public opinion is usually Ipersed and diverse, for there are as many opinions as there are groups of mion-holdets on an issue confronting the country and therefore as many Hies. But when the government and opposition parties begin to propagate ir opinions, the various opinions begin to coalesce; diversity begins to rease and more and more crystallise onto two or more focal points. At , near the general elections, a majority or dominant public opinion erges under the leadership of the government or the opposition party. At Is time, the public opinion is at its peak, formed around the victorious ly, whether the old ruling or new one. It is in this way that democracy Dines a government by public opinion. After the elections, public iuion disperses again into several opinions and publics till the time of the xl elections.

Nothing reveals the difference between democracy and editorship more than the way public opinion is formed and carries weight in them. The very first thing a dictator does is to deprive the people of all the means and sources of forming public opinion in an independent and autonomous manner. All parties are banned, their leaders arrested and jailed or otherwise silenced or driven out of the country. Only the dictator’s parly remains in country if there is one at all. In Pakistan, for instance, tho military dictators did not have even their own party. Similarly, no writer, thinker or philosopher is allowed to write or say anything.

All newspapers magazines and the like are closed: only the dictator’s own newspaper or newspapers, etc., are available to the people. Radio, television and all other means of communication, information and propaganda are under hit control. No citizen is allowed to form any association, publish any newspaper or magazine, or hold public meetings. People are also denied al civil liberties and even fundamental rights. The dictator is himself the opinion—maker. What he says or does is public opinion. No elections are held. If any one is at all held, it is rigidly controlled by the dictator. He or his party puts up candidates. The people have no choice but to cast vote ir favour of the government nominees. Thus the elections also are instrument! of expression of the dictator’s opinion, and policies. The people have no voice in making of the government policies.