Public opinion down through history

Concern for public opinion itself is probably as old as mankind's first political stirrings. It has been a recurrent concept in Western political dialogue, as a sampling of quotations suggests:

''Whatever fine declarations may be inserted in any constitution respecting the security of liberty must altogether depend upon public opinion and on the general spirit of the people and of the government. And here after all . . . must we seek for the only solid basis of all our rights.'' - Alexander Hamilton

''It may be foreseen that faith in public opinion will become a species of religion, and the majority its ministering prophet.'' - Alexis de Tocqueville

''The people of the United States are thinking for themselves . . . and you do not know, and the worst of it is, since the responsibility is mine, I do not know what they are thinking about. I have the most imperfect means of finding out, and yet I have to act as if I know.'' - Woodrow Wilson

''Treat them (public opinion polls), then, with respect, as you would give to any honest and expert professional assessment of facts that you have to take into account. And then recognize that you were elected, as legislator, as an executive, to exercise a judgment - not on what is expedient, or electorally rewarding, but a judgment on what is right.'' - Harold Wilson

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