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Political climate

The political climate is the aggregate, current mood and opinions of a populace about political issues that also currently affect that population. It is generally used to describe a state of change in mood and opinions rather than a state of equilibrium. The phrase has origins from both ancient Greece and medieval-era France.

While the concept of a political climate has been used historically to describe both politics and public reactions to political actions in various forms, the naming of the concept by the addition of the modifier “political” to the base “climate” has been fairly recent. Public opinion is also widely used incorrectly as a synonym for political climate.

As for judging what the climate is at any given time, there is no way to know an entire country's views on certain subjects. So, polls are used to estimate what the political climate "feels" like on a regular basis. However, this only works to some degree as polls cannot involve the entire population at once.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the base climate comes from the Middle French climat, which was first used to describe a region's prevailing weather conditions around 1314. One of the first recorded uses of climate as a description of prevailing political attitudes was in The Vanity of Dogmatizing by Joseph Glanvill in 1661 where he mentions “divers Climates of Opinions”.

The modifier (politic with the –al suffix) comes originally from the ancient Greek noun polis which referred to both a Greek city state, and the ideal state or government. Over time, this evolved through the Latin noun politicus which is defined as the civil government, to the Middle French adjective politique which is the state of government, or relating to government.

From 431 B.C.E to 404 B.C.E., ancient Greece was torn apart by the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta. The war concluded with an Athenian defeat and several years of oppression by pro-Spartan rulers. By 399 B.C.E, Athens had returned to self-rule through revolution. At this time, Athens was undergoing social turmoil due to the apparent failure of democracy as an effective form of government, which created a public backlash against anything anti-democratic.

  • Bagby, Laurie. Political Thought: A Guide to the Classics. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Group, 2002. Print.
  • Bishop, George. The Illusion of Public Opinion. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2005. Print.
  • Lewis, Justin. Constructing Public Opinion. New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2001. Print.
  • Moore, David. The Superpollsters. 2nd. New York, NY: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1995. Print.
  • Thucydides. The History of the Peloponnesian War. Gutenberg: Project Gutenberg, 2009. eBook.
  • “Plato”. Classics of Moral and Political Theory. Ed. Michael L. Morgan. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2005. Print.


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