By J K Galbraith
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S. Constitution, for example, Federalist Paper no. S. " Even the extensive American states, it said, were not immune to infection from "violent passions" (Hamilton et aI. 1961, pp. 382, 384-385). James Madison objected, in Federalist Paper no. 49, to Jefferson's proposal that Virginia should allow for popular conventions to alter its constitution or correct breaches in it. Madison alluded to the "danger of disturbing the public tranquility by interesting too strongly the public passions" (p. 315).
In each of these latter cases, collective public opinion (about the MX missile between 1981 and 1983, for example), may well change. The centralized nature of the information system has a number of important consequences. For one thing, some long-term opinion changes by individuals are likely to be aggregated into enduring collective opinion changes. We want to know how often this has happened, what has caused it, and for which policy issues it has occurred. For another thing, public opinion can change temporarily, as a result of temporary opinion shifts by many individuals at the same time.
Finally, Chapter 10 summarizes and evaluates our evidence concerning the rationality of the general public: the extent to which collective public opinion is real, meaningful, and coherent, reflecting underlying values and beliefs; the extent to which it fluctuates or is stable; whether it changes capriciously or through reasonable and consistent responses to information and events. The chapter also appraises the place of public opinion in democratic policy-making. 2 The Myth of CapriciousChange o It is widely believed that the American public's policy preferences shift frequently, rapidly, and arbitrarily.