‘Common sentiment’

Why is it that opinion polls dominate our interest? Because of what they are: instruments that reproduce an electoral showdown on a daily basis, even registering its results. In the minds of everyone – even those who talk about a «fixed game» – the opinion poll reflects the election result, and this is why it is has an indirect influence and can shape trends. But there is something else that gives an unanticipated power to opinion polls – it is the fact that they flatter us. They convince us that we, the active citizens, actually represent the current political reality. They reassure us about the existence of a public opinion – idealized, reflecting the «general will» Rousseau referred to and the common interest. But in order for a public opinion to exist, citizens must actively participate in matters of common interest and form a collective opinion about public affairs as a result of this participation. This is not happening. Public opinion today is rather a reflection of trends displayed in the polls. It is a melting pot of all types of rhetorical garbage from the world of politics. Many of us live our lives as simple bystanders, as consumers of countless useful and useless messages, a mish-mash of changing images and opinions. It is this «common sentiment» that opinion polls tend to play up to.

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