Although public opinion is downplayed in this relationship, it certainly has its place in terms of public representation simply because the electorate must feel placated. The primary role of a public representative is, however, to understand the difference between opinion and interest, and to legislate with the best interests of the people in mind. Public representatives must work to find a balance between the focus of opinion and interest.
Edmund Burke described the mentality of human society as being based on two basic principles: the people's interests and the people's opinions. These have been the foundation of Burke's Distinction, a theoretical framework of behaviour that has been used to study economics and politics as they pertain to public will and necessity. Burke's Distinction refers to the distinct forces of both interest and opinion, and describes how these forces relate to one another in terms of human character and motivation (Gargarella, 2001, 13).
Burke's reference to people's interests is his idea that political or economic change will come as a result of successful government that understands the basic difference between whim and necessity. ...
existence and unrestricted by conscious efforts, public interest has always been and will always remain fundamentally the same in that it must be addressed for survival purposes (Stanlis, 1958, 179). Public interest, in Burke's view, is therefore distinguished from public opinion because of its almost autonomous status (Hoffman et al, 1956, 177). Whether Burke's Distinction is called upon to analyse politics or economics, the force of public interest is always the scientific factor involved in the analysis. This is important because proper scientific breakdown can show how public interest is different from public opinion quickly and easily; although often the motivations behind the two are the same, Burke's Distinction shows which issues demand the attention of a governing body and which may simply be trendy at the time.
Public opinion subsequently can be used to represent not only the popular opinion of a community but often the result of mass misinformation. According to Burke, popular opinion is very often cultivated from small truths which are stretched and skewed to an unrecognisable state upon which people then begin to make judgements (Somerset and Burke, 1957, 89). This can relate to international affairs, internal issues, economy, political systems themselves and virtually any facet of public or private life. Burke doesn't necessarily suggest that group mentality is fundamentally different than individual mentality; he simply points out that what can in one person's mind be an issue worth gathering more information about becomes an escalated, un-researched issue in the hands of an entire society at once.
While public representatives need to always keep an eye on public opinion (after all, public opinion equates to the outcome of an election)