Think Happy Thoughts

Public Opinion and Persuasion

Posted on: April 21, 2009

What is public opinion?

  • Public Opinion is the collective expression of opinion of many individuals bound into a group by common aims, aspirations, needs, and ideals.
  • People who are interested or who have a vested or self- interest in an issue, or who can be affected by the outcome of the issue, form public opinion on that particular item.
  • Pyschologically, opinion basically is determined by self interest. Events, words, or other stimuli opinion only insofar as their relationship to self interest or a general concern is apparent.
  • Opinion does not remain aroused for a long period of time unless people feel their self interest is acutely involved or unless opinion, aroused by words, is sustained by events.
  • Once self interest is involved, opinion is not easily changed.
  • Opinion is highly sensitive to events that have an impact on the public at large or a particular segment of the public.
  • By and large, public opinion does not anticipate events, only reacts to them.
  • Events trigger formation of public opinion. Unless people are aware of an issue, they are not likely to be concerned or have opinion. Awareness and discussion lead to crystallizing of opinions and often a consensus among the public.
  • Events of unusual magnitude are likely to swing public opinion temporarily from one extreme to another. Opinion does not stablize until the implication of the event is seen with some perspective.

Opinion Leaders- those who are:

  1. Highly interested in a subject or issue
  2. Better informed on an issue than the average person
  3. Avid consumers of mass media
  4. Early adopters of new ideas
  5. Good organizers who can get other people to take action
  6. Typically- active in the community, have a college degree, earn relatively high incomes, regularly read newspapers and magazines, actively participate in recreational activities, and show environmental concern by recycling

Persuasion is used to:

  • Change or neutralize hostile opinions
  • Crystallize latent opinions and positives attitudes
  • Conserve favorable opinions

Persuasive Messages Include:

  • Make money, save money, save time, little effort, more comfort, better health, cleaner, escape pain, gain praise, be popular, be loved or accepted, keep possessions, more enjoyment, satisfy curiousity, protect family, be stylish, have beautiful things, satisfy appetite, be like others, avoid trouble, avoid criticism, protect reputation, be an individual, be safe, make work easier, be secure.


  1. Do not sue false, fabricated, misrepresented, distorted, or irrelevent evidence to support arguments or claims.
  2. Do not intentionally use specious, unsupported, or illogical reasoning.
  3. Do not represent yourself as informed or as an expert on a subject when you are not.
  4. Do not use irrelevant appeals to divert attention or scrutiny from the iddue at hand.
  5. Do not deceive your audience by concealing your real purpose, your self interest, the group your represent, or your position as an advocate of a viewpoint.
  6. Do not ask your audience to lunk your idea or proposal to eemotion laden values, motives, or goals to which actually is not related.
  7. Do not distort, hide, or misrepresent the number, scope, intensity, or undesirable features of consequences.
  8. Do not use emotional appeals taht lack a supporting basis of evidence or reasoning or that would not be accepted if the audience had time and opportunity to examine the subject itself.
  9. Do not oversimplify complex situations into simplistic, two valued, either/or, polar views or choices.
  10. Do not pretend certainty when tentativeness and degress of probability would be more accurate.
  11. Do not advocate something in which you do not believ yourself.


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