public opinion

noun
the collective opinion of many people on some issue, problem, etc., especially as a guide to action, decision, or the like.

Origin:
1560–70

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World English Dictionary
public opinion
 
n
the attitude of the public, esp as a factor in determining the actions of government

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Encyclopedia Britannica
Encyclopedia

public opinion

an aggregate of the individual views, attitudes, and beliefs about a particular topic, expressed by a significant proportion of a community. Some scholars treat the aggregate as a synthesis of the views of all or a certain segment of society; others regard it as a collection of many differing or opposing views. Writing in 1918, the American sociologist Charles Horton Cooley emphasized public opinion as a process of interaction and mutual influence rather than a state of broad agreement. The American political scientist V.O. Key defined public opinion in 1961 as "opinions held by private persons which governments find it prudent to heed." Subsequent advances in statistical and demographic analysis led by the 1990s to an understanding of public opinion as the collective view of a defined population, such as a particular demographic or ethnic group.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
Ask each group to create a survey to gauge public opinion about wolves.
Public opinion has been overwhelmingly against the pipelines and oil tankers.
As the world becomes ever-more-saturated in social media, the court of public
  opinion grows only more sensitive.
Unable to get the current government to reverse the decision, it has appealed
  to public opinion.
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