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The observation of public opinion by the governmental system


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  • Fuchs, Dieter
  • Pfetsch, Barbara
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    The paper addresses the observation of public opinion as one form of communication between the governmental system and its environment. It starts with the premise that public opinion is the major point of reference of the governmental system, when it comes to the question of how and how strongly the government responds to the interests and demands of the citizens. In our analysis we aim to determine both theoretically and empirically the rationales and conceptions regarding the observation of public opinion held by actors in public information agencies of the government. As public opinion is an ambiguous concept we begin with a discussion of the concept and then seek to explicate the observation of public opinion from a systems theory point of view. In the empirical part we present evidence about the images of public opinion which make up for the knowledge structure of those collective actors whose task is the observation of public opinion. Our main hypothesis was that the systematic monitoring of opinion polls and surveys is the focus of observing public opinion. However, we found that in addition, the assumption of the importance of media effects leads to an equally important observation of the mass media. -- Der Beitrag befaßt sich mit der Beobachtung der öffentlichen Meinung als einer möglichen Form der Kommunikation zwischen dem Regierungssystem und seiner Umwelt. Wir gehen von der Prämisse aus, daß öffentliche Meinung eine zentrale Bezugsgröße des Regierungssystems darstellt, wenn es um die Frage geht, wie und wie stark das Regierungssystem auf die Interessen und Wünsche der Bürger reagiert. In unserer Analyse versuchen wir, die Vorstellungen über die Ziele und Mittel der Beobachtung öffentlicher Meinung, die das Handeln der Akteure in den Öffentlichkeitsabteilungen der Regierung determinieren sowohl theoretisch als auch empirisch zu analysieren. Da öffentliche Meinung ein vielschichtiger und vager Begriff ist, beginnen wir mit einer Diskussion unterschiedlicher Bedeutungen und versuchen dann, die Beobachtung öffentlicher Meinung durch das Regierungssystem in seinem spezifischen Kontext, und zwar in systemtheoretischer Perspektive, zu explorieren. Im empirischen Teil untersuchen wir die Images von öffentlicher Meinung, die die Wissensstruktur jener kollektiven Akteure prägen, die für die Beobachtung der öffentlichen Meinung im Regierungssystem zuständig sind. Unsere zentrale Hypothese lautet, daß die Beobachtung öffentlicher Meinung in erster Linie durch eine systematische Berücksichtigung von Meinungsumfragen geschieht. Gleichwohl fanden wir, daß aufgrund der Annahme starker Medieneffekte in den Öffentlichkeitsabteilungen der Regierung die Beobachtung der Massenmedien eine ebenso wichtige Rolle spielt.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB) in its series Discussion Papers, Research Unit: The Public and the Social Movement with number FS III 96-105.

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    Date of creation: 1996
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    Handle: RePEc:zbw:wzbpub:fsiii96105

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