Nowadays the practice of political science, as expressed through intergovernmental organizations or governments, is characterized by a movement towards the establishment of democracy through the promotion of democratic principles and values. Democracy in its broader meaning refers to the rule of the people; the sovereignty of people (Sargent, 2008). Due to the aforementioned, public opinion constitutes a factor of high importance when discussing its relevance with today’s politics.
Public opinion is strongly related with the freedom of speech. Therefore, if people are free to express their opinions on certain topics i.e. political leaders, decisions adopted policies in effect and general practices of a government, then it is more likely that they will achieve to have an impact on these topics (Burnstein, 2003). Thus, public opinion must be respected and taken into account in today’s politics.On the other hand, I strongly believe that in certain occasions public opinion is not properly respected in today’s political scene. Politics are also concerned with diplomatic practices and politicians tend to serve their pre-set agenda, one way or another.
At this point, several examples can be addressed when public opinion had no impact, such as the US invasion of Iraq (Baum & Potter, 2008), imposition of severe austerity measures in EU countries (Diamond & Lodge, 2013) and the resistance of US government to take action in environmental issues (Leiserowitz, 2007). In politics today, public opinion is viewed as a flexible tool. Politicians can easily ignore or manipulate public opinion. We can, therefore, argue that a democratic illusion is given to the people by offering them the right to express themselves. However, when it comes to core political issues, the government is the one to decide regardless of the public opinion.From my point of view, public opinion is a double-sided coin having two meanings; a broad and a narrow.
Today’s politics seems to facilitate both meanings depending on the topic discussed at a time. I should also argue that public opinion, as a tool for the people, needs to strengthen its power. It is not enough that people express their opinions freely; in fact, further actions should be taken in conjunction. Finally, politicians should develop a stronger sense of political ethos that would allow them to properly respect public opinion.