Discussion Forum – Political Influence and Public Opinion


There are many ways we participate in politics. The Framers of the Constitution believed that the average citizen should play an important role in America’s representative democracy. Today, we know some American citizens vote and others do not. This begs the question: Do people really know what they want? Your text mentions Walter Lippmann’s famous quote, “The masses are asses,” from Lippmann’s book Public Opinion (1922). An alternative view mentioned in your text is from Benjamin Page and Robert Shapiro defending the public as both wise and rational in The American Voter and The Rational Public.


  1. Review the discussion in your text on Public Opinion in a Democracy.
  2. Review the voter ignorance study by Professor Ilya Somin, George Mason University School of Law attached below. He looks at critical statistics on voter participation in elections and a voting citizen’s knowledge of politics and political issues.
  3. Evaluate the influence of public opinion in a democracy—is it the expression of ignorant masses, or the dynamic decision-making power of a self-governing people?