The study makes an attempt at rethinking and extending the notion of latent public opinion. According to this conception, in contemporary societies it does not suffice to restrict the concept of latent opinion to the bifurcation of private and public opinions on the one hand and the manifestation of so called hidden opinions on the other. The paper studies the concept of latent opinion from three aspects. Beside the secrecy of opinions it analyzes latency syndromes deriving from the restricted observability of audiences, respectively from the transformation of opinions to votes. In all these cases it is the lack of direct observability - visibility, surveyability and foreseeability - that plays an important role in the evolution of latency. The extension of the concept can refer not only to hidden opinions as intended but also to the unintended consequences of latency. Surveying the research experiences of forty years it seems certain that while before the change of system it was hidden opinions that existed much more widely, in our days it is the more difficult reachability of audiences and the transformation of opinions into votes that becomes the most important barrier of the observability of opinions.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.