What are some of today's liberal opinions

Public opinion

1. About the concept

A matter is called public not only because it is not secret and generally accessible. Something is public especially when it has to do with the "res publica", when it comes to everyone's concern. We can speak of a political public when the public creates transparency, enables discursiveness about topics, opinions and convictions and offers orientation in the diversity of opinions. Public opinion as a political term does not automatically result from the addition of individual opinions. It is neither a quasi-statistical aggregate of demoscopically recorded population attitudes, nor is it to be equated with the published opinion. Ö.M. Rather, it must be understood as "a collective product of communications that presents itself between the speakers as the 'ruling' opinion" (Neidhardt 1994). For the legitimacy of democratic rule, Ö.M. a central category. Nevertheless: A generally accepted definition of Ö.M. does not exist (Davidson 1968).

2. Historical, democratic theory and constitutional aspects

Democratic rule is dependent on consent and is therefore also publicly justified and accountable. Political responsibility can only be assigned where there is publicity. Public and public thus represent indispensable factors in the process of political will-formation in all liberal systems. Even dictatorial regimes cannot exist in the long term without addressing the supposed opinion of those subject to the rule at certain intervals through mock acclamations in the form of → elections, plebiscites, referenda, demonstrative demonstrations etc. to call. The idea, however, that democracy is ultimately based on O.M., is the rule of O.M., is at least a misleading simplification. It fails to recognize the dual character of the political public. Because in it a cross section of the opinions and desires of the people does not automatically manifest itself. In modern welfare-state democracies in particular, which have differentiated media systems, the political public is essentially a product of the active cultivation of opinion. It doesn't just come about, it is done. Decisive are the institutions of the state (especially government and parliament) that are prominent in the formation of political will and decision-making, the important, opinion-forming social actors (→ parties, associations) and increasingly also movement actors (citizen groups and NGOs) of various kinds.

Historically, the public sphere, as a core element of democratic control of all state activity, is a decisive principle in the development of a democratic constitutional state. The development of the public as its own sphere, mediating between state and society, in which the public is the bearer of the Ö.M. articulated, is above all a product of the Age of Enlightenment and Rationalism. With the "subordination of morality to politics" (R. Koselleck) as a result of the shaking of belief in the ultimate religious justification for political action and in the course of the radical criticism of Christian natural law, the Ö.M. a democratic theoretical and practical intrinsic value for the justification and justification of politics. Questions of faith and conscience become a private matter. But only then can the space arise in which critical reasoning about public affairs takes place. It was initially the salons, coffee circles and aristocratic meetings that developed from private to semi-public spaces in the 18th century. They provided the basis for the emergence of oppositional potential and for the demand for power sharing. The increasing politicization of the public and its connection with Rousseau's idea of ​​popular sovereignty took away the term "the derogatory sense of mere opinion" and merged it with the idea "that human reason needs the public in order to test itself. Public Opinion thus becomes the truth equivalent for the functional area of ​​politics "(Luhmann 2000).

Ö.M. As a political term, it is initially used as a weapon in the struggle of the growing bourgeoisie for the expansion of its rights, and finally as a weapon to protect the privileges of the bourgeoisie against the participation claims of the non-bourgeois classes. In the European-Atlantic world, different lines of tradition from Ö.M. formed. This is how Ö.M. in the French tradition with the theory of "volonté générale". In contrast, in the Anglo-Saxon world, the idea of ​​a "government by public opinion" prevailed against all ideals of homogeneity associated with the "volonté générale". If the Anglo-Saxon "public opinion" is satisfied with controlling the power of government, the French "opinion publique" implies the idea of ​​exercising the power of government oneself (Fraenkel 1991).

Ö.M. in the sense of the prevailing opinion is in any case more than the sum of the current citizens' opinions, which can be measured with the help of the "substitute indicator" demoscopy and equate them with Ö.M. is judged by critics as a creeping plebiscitary undermining of the democratic system (Hennis 1957). In the → political culture Ds has a certain reserve and at times disgust for the Ö.M. Tradition. The main reason for this is the delayed development of democracy in Germany in the 19th and 20th centuries. For a long time, state-theoretical interest was not given to notions of Ö.M. obtained from observation and experience, but rather an idealized normative or technocratic understanding. After that, the Ö.M. from politically informed, independent and rationally judging citizens and sees itself as a "correlate of rule" that has a critical effect on them (Noelle-Neumann 1989).

3. Theoretical explanations

For the understanding of Ö.M. There are a number of explanatory approaches that accentuate the problem area of ​​politics and the public in general and of rule and public opinion in particular differently.

3.1 The social psychological approach: Ö.M. as "social skin"

As part of her internationally respected and politically influential theory of the "spiral of silence", E. Noelle-Neumann tries to understand the process and function of Ö.M. to be re-described and made accessible for empirical verification: After that, Ö.M. "Based on the unconscious endeavor of people living in an association to come to a common judgment, to an agreement that is necessary in order to act and, if necessary, to be able to decide" (Noelle-Neumann 2002: 393). An essential drive for attitude formation and social behavior of people is based on the desire not to isolate oneself in the social environment. Through a "quasi-statistical" organ of perception, humans have the ability to register the increase and decrease in the distribution of opinions on certain topics in their environment. Due to a "fear of isolation" assumed as a socio-psychological constant, one's own opinions are withheld if they do not correspond to the perceived "climate of opinion" and there is a risk of isolation. Conversely, people tend to publicly acknowledge their beliefs when they see the current or future majority opinion on their side. This creates a dynamic development over time. The actually or apparently decreasing opinion fraction always appears weaker than it really is, the actually or supposedly increasing as stronger. This process develops like a spiral process of increasing speaking or silence (hence "spiral of silence").

In terms of communication theory, two sources of environmental observation are important for the individual: the direct environmental observation conveyed in a social context and the indirect, primarily medial-conveyed image of how the majority thinks.

In terms of communication policy, the concept of the "spiral of silence" received and continues to be particularly prominent because - regardless of the criticism of methodology and dubious empirical evidence - it provides a plausible explanatory framework for possible political influences of the → mass media. This was particularly true of the time when the public service media and especially television dominated political reporting (e.g. → election campaigns) in the electronic sector. Because precisely when the media content is strongly consonant, according to the theory, the power of the media can come into play in that the opinion conveyed via the media and possibly politically one-sided appears to be particularly strong and in this way the climate of opinion in the population (e.g. E.g. before → elections).

Source: Andersen, Uwe / Wichard Woyke (ed.): Concise dictionary of the political system of the Federal Republic of Germany. 7th, updated Aufl. Heidelberg: Springer VS 2013. Author of the article: Ulrich Sarcinelli