In the general slander of public opinion and public opinion polls ("leaders who pander to public opinion lose respect", see John Kay in the Financial Times), people often mistake attitudes for opinion. It's a technical detail, but from a governance reform view it makes all the difference. Attitudes are predispositions. Opinions are expressions, speech acts. Opinions precede and determine behavior. And that, after all, is where we aim in working toward governance reform.
The ultimate goal for working on the demand side from a political communication perspective is the mobilization of the public. We want to drive citizens who lack information and efficacy to being an active public, participating as relevant actors in the public sphere and in thereby in political decision making processes. Here at CommGAP, we base our approach on a range of literature from the study of public opinion and social movements and came up with what we call the "Stairway to Mobilization." In the coming days and weeks we will try to illustrate this concept with practical examples and case studies, but for now lets discuss the theoretical background.
"The four major collective concepts commonly invoked in public opinion research - the general public, the electorate, the attentive public, and the elite or active public - correspond roughly to a continuum from mass to public. ... each of these four collectives - whether formally considered a public or not - can play a significant role in the formation of public opinion. It is in this sense that the search for the public is likely to be in vain. ... It is in the interaction among these groups – as they form and change over time – that answers are likely to be found concerning the collective formation and impact of public opinion."
in Public Opinion (1992)