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Public Opinion

Citizens In Want of Stamina

Sina Odugbemi's picture

This is the age of hopeful citizens where in almost every part of the globe citizens are mobilizing, marching and, often successfully, pushing for change. But this is also the age of increasingly frustrated citizens. In some cases, the frustration is occasioned by the failure to achieve changes in regimes even after an astonishing sequence of heroic efforts and sacrifices by citizens. In other cases, the efforts originally appeared successful. Long-entrenched dictators fell and citizens were ecstatic, believing glorious days were imminent. Yet, in many of these cases, one disappointment is jumping on top of another. Change is proving far more difficult to achieve; it is even proving elusive.

Smoke Without Fire: A Look at Influence, Trust and Media-Built Perceptions

Caroline Jaine's picture

In September last year, I ran a rather crude survey inviting readers of my blog on Pakistani news channel, Dawn to take part.  The survey was a rather tongue-in-cheek response to the tenth anniversary of George Bush’s Axis of Evil Speech, but it has thrown up some points of interest to communications professionals. 

Most readers picked up on the fact that in today’s connected world, labelling an entire nation as “evil” was not a useful rhetoric.  However, I was overwhelmed with hundreds of responses.  More people completed the questionnaire than I had money to access on the free online survey and many of the comments certainly didn’t shy away from national stereotypes or allegations of evil.

When the Intellectual is a Thug

Sina Odugbemi's picture

As a rule, when intellectuals contribute to public debate on any issue of public concern in any country, it is an entirely wholesome development, and one deserving every encouragement. That is truer if the intellectuals involved know how to communicate even the most abstruse area of knowledge vividly, clearly, compellingly. For, when we say we desire ‘informed public opinion’, one of the best ways of bringing that about is by encouraging well-trained minds on any subject relevant to a public policy question of general concern to help their fellow-citizens by throwing a bright light on the subject. That is why news and current affairs editors everywhere try to maintain a roster of experts that can be called upon to comment on issues occasioning public controversy.

The Thunder of Multitudes

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Perhaps it should not have been surprising that given the rolling thunder of multitudes that the world witnessed throughout 2011, the global news media would end the year with reflections on the fact that citizens massed, marched and yelled at the powerful.  If you are English-speaking, you would have noticed that TIME Magazine’s person of the year was The Protester.  Kurt Andersen’s cover story is beautifully written; so too are the photographs and illustrations that accompany the piece. If you have not read it, try to do so.

#8: Media and Policy Makers Need to Connect to Online "Influentials"

Susan Moeller's picture

Our Top Ten Blog Posts by Readership in 2011

Originally published on September 6, 2011

Most of those who have been riveted to the breaking news in North Africa and the Middle East during the so-called “Arab Spring” and the recent grimmer months this summer have been focused on predicting the actions of the various heads of state—of Hosni Mubarak, Muammar Gaddafi, Bashar Assad.  But many academics have been trying to figure out who have been the prime movers of the grassroots unrest sweeping the region. 

Closing the Gap Between Climate Change Science and Public Opinion

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

The global policy community seems unlikely to take drastic steps with regard to climate change any time soon. Politicians remain hesitant about taking action, although scientific consensus on climate change is overwhelming. It’s happening, it’s happening now, and it will cause massive damage. And it’s mostly caused by humans. Public opinion, on the other hand, is far behind the science. Are politicians unwilling to impose dramatic measures to slow down climate change because the public is unwilling to pay the cost – yet? Are they kicking the can down the road because the people are not yet willing to fully embrace the fact and the consequences of climate change?

Quote of the Week: Thomas Friedman

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

"One wonders whether the Internet, blogging, Twitter, texting and microblogging ... have made participatory democracy and autocracy so participatory, and leaders so finely attuned to every nuance of public opinion, that they find it hard to make any big decision that requires sacrifice. They have too many voices in their heads other than their own."


Thomas L. Friedman

New York Times, November 15, 2011

Is There a Global Public Sphere?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

One of the ways in which the world we live in today feels very different from the one we lived in even a decade ago is how ‘connected’ we all feel these days. It does seem that there are issues that we all talk about, personages and celebrities that we all know, and technological means of information sharing and exchange that we all share.  Yet, can we say that one of the consequences of globalization is that we now have a global public sphere, especially now that Fareed Zakaria of CNN calls his talk show ‘The Global Public Square’?

You will recall that a public sphere is a metaphor for a space that still exists in some contexts: the village square, the town hall… a place where people come together to talk about common concerns, a process that leads to the crystallization of public opinion.  Beyond the level of the village or the small town --- situations where most inhabitants can conceivably gather and talk – the public sphere becomes a grand metaphor, but a useful one. As Denis McQuail asserts in his classic text on communication theory, in most national contests today the ‘media are now probably the key institution of the public sphere, and its “quality” will depend on the quality of the media’. [See McQuail’s Mass Communication Theory, Fifth Edition, page 566.]

Learning from the Last Five Years: CommGAP and Good Governance

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

As CommGAP draws to a close, I've been reflecting a bit on what I've learned from the program over the last five years and the many interesting research, practice and policy questions still left to be explored.

For me, CommGAP was one of the first programs to take a critical look at the phenomenon we call "good governance" by drawing linkages between the related but conceptually distinct strands of accountability, transparency, access to information, citizen voice and mobilization, civil society capacity building, media development, public opinion formation, democratic deliberation, and state capacity/ resilience/ legitimacy. I still remember a conversation I had with Sina at a conference many years ago, asking him how he envisioned the "connective tissue" between all these concepts. The CommGAP program, in a sense, was Sina's answer, and I've been lucky to be able to help articulate some of this work.