Plan*B and Public Opinion

Date: 14 Jan 2005 - Author: Juha Huuskonen / Plan*B

Public Opinion is a contradictory term. ‘Opinion’ refers to something that is private and personal while ‘Public’ is something that is common and shared. Therefore the definition of public opinion is constantely under debate. One approach used by researchers is to make a distinction between public opinion and mass opinion.

Public opinion is based on rational reasoning and collective analysis. It is based on open and active discussion, generating various choises which all have their own supporters. In order for one to have an opinion about the subject, one needs participate the discussion in order to learn about the options.

Mass opinion is not based on discussion but rather a common focus of interest or attention. Examples of masses in contemporary life are those who are excited by some national event or those who are interested in murder trial which is reported in the press. The mass is composed of anonymous individuals and is marked by very little interaction or communication among its members. The mass merely consists of an aggregation of individuals who are separate, detached, anonymous and who act in response to their own needs.

PLAN*B FOR ARKADIANMÄKI project is dealing with democracy and various forms of government. The project is exploring how we can influence the world around us. Our opinions - the Public Opinion - is an essential factor in this and also the web address of PLAN*B project. The choise of the web address was inspired by a similar project which took place in Stockholm in 2002,

In important national and global decisions, is it possible today to reach the optimal state of public opinion – an opinion based on rational thinking – or is the public opinion equal to mass opinion? How good tools are Referendums and opinion polls for measuring the public opinion? Would there be some new and better models for public discussion and decisionmaking? The PLAN*B Referendums and Project gallery can hopefully offer some new perspectives to these issues.

The definitions of public opinion and mass opinion is based on information from book Communication Concepts 4 : Public Opinion (Vincent Price, Sage Publications 1992).