Britain is spiraling downhill, if this reflects their thinking. I give George Bush a b+ in his handling of the situation.
Studies show that if you give the public a mythical public policy problem, 70% will answer questions. What seems to happen is the public wants to look or be smart and opines on subjects it has no real understanding of.
If you combine the two above you have a situation where the polls make opinion, are then measured as opinion and serve as policy levers by the cognoscenti.
Looked at in another way one can paraphrase Mark Twain and say what most people call thinking is emoting and the aggregation of that "thinking" is called public opinion. It is cherished and held in just high esteem and reverence some feel it is the word of God.