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The observation of public opinion by the governmental system


  • Fuchs, Dieter
  • Pfetsch, Barbara


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.

Suggested Citation

  • Fuchs, Dieter & Pfetsch, Barbara, 1996. "The observation of public opinion by the governmental system," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: The Public and the Social Movement FS III 96-105, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:wzbpub:fsiii96105

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