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Public Opinion

Tiger Woods: the Moral Sanction Goes Global

Sina Odugbemi's picture

In my own work and in my own studies, I think about public opinion as a critical force in politics and, therefore, in governance. Readers of this blog know that. But what we see working in the crisis around the personal life of the golfer, Tiger Woods, is an older, ever-present sense of how public opinion works; yet it is working in a new, globalized media environment, around an iconic sporting superstar. 

Quote of the Week

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

"Opinion of the public is clearly a modern phenomenon: its origin and development are connected with the spirit of the Enlightenment, which, in a reciprocal influence with the development of natural sciences but also historical political thought in parallel with the present state and civil society on which it is founded in a permanent struggle with once ruling but now weaker and weaker religious-theological mental world, up till now has never been fully materialized and, under the influence of deeply moving events, experiences ever new blows that hamper and sometimes destructively influence public opinion formation."

 

Ferdinand Tönnies, 1928

Quote of the Week

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

"Consensus is the sign that [a] partial or complete understanding has been reached on a number of issues confronting the members of a group sufficient to entitle it to be called a society. It implies that a measure of agreement has been reached. The agreement, however, is neither imposed by coercion nor fixed by custom so as no longer to be subject to discussion. It is always partial and developing and has constantly to be won."

 

 

 


Louis Wirth, 1948
Consensus and Mass Communication
American Sociological Review, Vol. 13, No. 1 (Feb., 1948), pp. 1-15

Minarets in Switzerland: The Dilemmas of Public Opinion

Sina Odugbemi's picture

The leaders of Switzerland have a ticklish problem, one of the most difficult problems in political thought and practice. A clear majority of the Swiss have just voted to ban the construction of minarets in Switzerland. 57.5 per cent of voters in 22 out of 26 cantons voted  in the recent referendum to approve the ban. According to press reports, under Swiss law the ban will be added to the Constitution. Now, that is a major development, and, as you must know, the referendum result has proved controversial...to put it mildly. The impact will be felt for years to come. But I am not going to get into the issue. The Swiss have to sort this one out. What I am interested in is the fact that the leaders of government and business in Switzerland do not regard the referendum decision a wise one. According to the justice minister, Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, while the referendum result 'reflects fears among the population of Islamic fundamentalist tendencies' and the concerns 'have to be taken seriously' still 'The Federal Council takes the view that a ban on construction of new minarets is not a feasible means of countering extremist tendencies'.

“Saya Cicak” (I am a Gecko): The Power of Public Support

Fumiko Nagano's picture

On Monday this week, I went to a presentation by Michael Buehler at the Center for Strategic &International Studies in Washington, DC. The title of his talk, “Of Geckos and Crocodiles: Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Efforts,” piqued my curiosity as I had blogged about Indonesia’s anti-corruption commission earlier this year. Buehler began by giving a comprehensive overview of Indonesia’s corruption eradication measures since 1998 to date, outlining the passage of corruption-related laws and regulations, establishment of independent anti-corruption bodies, and development of anti-corruption programs. He then gave an analysis of the anti-corruption bodies, programs and their weaknesses, chronicled the work of the country’s anti-corruption commission (called the Corruption Eradication Commission, or “KPK” for short in Indonesian), and described the achievements and challenges facing anti-corruption efforts in Indonesia.

Quote of the Week

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

"Nonpublic opinions are at work in great numbers, and 'the' public opinion is indeed a fiction. Nevertheless, in a comparative sense the concept of public opinion is to be retained because the constitutional reality of the social-welfare state must be conceived as a process in the course of which a public sphere that functions effectively in the political realm is realized, that is to say, as a process in which the exercise of social power and political domination is effectively subjected to the mandate of democratic publicity."

 


Jürgen Habermas, 1962
Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere

Corruption, Game Theory, and Rational Irrationality

Fumiko Nagano's picture

If we had to name one reason why petty corruption is so difficult to tackle, it has to be that it makes sense for people to engage in it than not. Unlike measures such as smoking bans, seatbelt laws, and drinking and driving laws where there is a clear individual benefit to those who do the “right thing,” corruption bans are hard to enforce because there aren’t easily discernible individual benefits to those who obey them. Rather, in countries where corruption is systemic, people who do what is right and follow whatever anti-corruption law might be in place will find themselves losing out to those who don’t.

In fact, with corruption, individual opinion doesn’t seem to matter much in one’s decision whether to engage in it. In theory, most people believe that corruption is wrong. But in practice, the incentive that motivates an individual’s behavior in a corruption-prone situation is their perception of what everyone else would do in a similar situation. Would your pregnant colleague pay a bribe so that she could jump the queue and get an H1N1 vaccination when the vaccines are in limited supply? Would your neighbor, an entrepreneur, slip a few notes to a civil servant under the table to expedite the process of obtaining a business license? If the answer to each of these questions is a “yes,” then why should you bother going against the system alone? Why should you do the right thing and find yourself at a disadvantage to everyone else who will do what it takes to obtain what they need given the environment and culture in which they live?

CommGAP at UNCAC Conference of State Parties, Doha

Fumiko Nagano's picture

Yesterday, CommGAP and UNODC co-hosted a side event during the Third Conference of the State Parties to the UN Convention against Corruption, taking place this week in Doha, Qatar. Entitled, “Media Relations and Good Practices in Awareness-Raising Campaigns,” the event consisted of two sessions, focusing on the importance of media relations for an anti-corruption agency to get its message across to the public and generate public support, and of awareness raising campaigns to engage the public in the fight against corruption.

Quote of the Week

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

"Participation is, clearly, the proper avenue of approach to the study of public opinion, for, in various senses, public opinion is participating opinion. But the legitimation of participation rests on the older, broader, and more philosophical proposition that just governments are governments to which, in some sense, the subjects have given their consent. Like participation, consent is never perfect, and like it also there are variations in forms of consent. Since we can hardly say that nonexistent opinion can be public opinion, we can hardly say that a primitive and inarticulate acceptance of a governing order is really consent."

 

Francis Graham Wilson, 1962
A Theory of Public Opinion


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