Vox populi

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Vox populi (/ˌvɒks ˈpɒpjuːli, -l/ VOKS POP-yoo-lee, -⁠lye)[1] is a Latin phrase (originally Vox populi, vox Dei -The voice of the people is the voice of the God) that literally means "voice of the people". It is used in English in the meaning "the opinion of the majority of the people".[1][2] In journalism, vox pop or man on the street refers to short interviews with members of the public.[3]

Man on the street[edit]

A vox pop interview

American television personality Steve Allen as the host of The Tonight Show further developed the "man on the street" interviews and audience-participation comedy breaks that have become commonplace on late-night TV. Usually the interviewees are shown in public places, and supposed to be giving spontaneous opinions in a chance encounter – unrehearsed persons, not selected in any way. As such, journalists almost always refer to them as the abbreviated vox pop.[4] In U.S. broadcast journalism, it is often referred to as a man on the street interview or MOTS.[5]

The results of such an interview are unpredictable at best, and therefore vox pop material is usually edited down very tightly. This presents difficulties of balance, in that the selection used ought to be, from the point of view of journalistic standards, a fair cross-section of opinions.

Although the two can be quite often confused, a vox pop is not a form of a survey. Each person is asked the same question; the aim is to get a variety of answers and opinions on any given subject. Journalists are usually instructed to approach a wide range of people to get varied answers from different points of view. The interviewees should be of various ages, sexes, classes and communities so that the diverse views and reactions of the general people will be known.

Generally, the vox pop question will be asked of different persons in different parts of streets or public places. But as an exception, in any specific topic or situation which is not concerned to general people, the question can be asked only in a specific group to know what the perception/reaction is of that group to the specific topic or issue; e.g., a question can be asked to a group of students about the quality of their education.

With increasing public familiarity with the term, several radio and television programs have been named "vox pop" in allusion to this practice.

Vox populi, vox Dei[edit]

The Latin phrase Vox populi, vox dei (/ˌvɒks ˈpɒpjuːli ˌvɒks ˈdi/), 'The voice of the people [is] the voice of the gods', is an old proverb.

An early reference to the expression is in a letter from Alcuin to Charlemagne in 798.[6] The full quotation from Alcuin reads:[7][8]

Writing in the early 12th century, William of Malmesbury refers to the saying as a "proverb".[9]

Of those who promoted the phrase and the idea, Archbishop of Canterbury Walter Reynolds brought charges against King Edward II in 1327 in a sermon "Vox populi, vox Dei".[10][11]

Cultural references[edit]

  • "Vox Populi" is a paper by Sir Francis Galton, first published in the 7 March 1907 issue of Nature, that demonstrates the "wisdom of the crowd" by a statistical analysis of the guesses from a weight-judging contest.[12]
  • A variant was used in the 1920 United States presidential election, in which the main candidates were Warren G. Harding and James M. Cox: "Cox or Harding, Harding or Cox? / You tell us, populi, you got the vox."[13]
  • In CollegeHumor's actual play Dungeons & Dragons show Dimension 20: The Unsleeping City, Kingston Brown holds the title of "Vox Populi of New York City", the individual selected to be the voice of the people of New York, regarding matters involving magical forces from the Dream Realm.
  • The "Vox Populi" are a faction in the 2013 video game BioShock Infinite as a communist revolutionary force led by Daisy Fitzroy against the tyrant Zachary Comstock.
  • Vox Populi is referenced in the film V for Vendetta when V performs his alliterative speech for Evey.[14]
  • Sherlock Holmes, in the story "The Adventure of the Abbey Grange", asks Watson to give judgment regarding a criminal, and after his choice to let him go sherlock quets the phrase "Vox populi vox dei" and sends the criminal free.[15]
  • After his acquisition of Twitter, Elon Musk conducted a poll[16] asking whether or not he should reinstate the account of the former President Donald Trump. Upon the results of the poll, Musk tweeted "The people have spoken. Trump will be reinstated. Vox Populi, Vox Dei."[17][18][19] This poll stated "Reinstate former President Trump"[20][21] and after 15,085,458 votes, resulted in 51.8% voting "Yes." Musk used the phrase, once again, in response to a poll he posted on Twitter on November 23, 2022. That poll asked, "Should Twitter offer a general amnesty to suspended accounts, provided that they have not broken the law or engaged in egregious spam?"[22] After being active for one day, the results were 72.4% in favor of account amnesty. 3,162,112 accounts voted. To this, Musk tweeted "The people have spoken. Amnesty begins next week. Vox Populi, Vox Dei."[23][24][25]

See also[edit]

Quotations related to Vox populi at Wikiquote


  1. ^ a b "Vox Populi". Oxford Dictionaries (online). Oxford University Press.
  2. ^ "Vox populi Definition & Meaning | Dictionary.com". Retrieved 5 March 2023.
  3. ^ Sally Adams (2001). Interviewing for Journalists. Psychology Press. p. 10. ISBN 978-0-415-22914-2.
  4. ^ David Stephenson (1998). How to Succeed in Newspaper Journalism. Kogan Page. p. 34. ISBN 0-7494-2514-8.
  5. ^ Prato, Lou (April 1999). "Easy to Do, But Often Worthless". American Journalism Review. Archived from the original on 15 March 2012. Retrieved 28 December 2010.
  6. ^ Mackie, P; Sim, F (2007). "A Question of Rhetoric". Journal of the Royal Institute of Public Health. 121 (9): 641–642. doi:10.1016/j.puhe.2007.06.001. PMID 17624382 – via Public Health Journal.
  7. ^ The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, third edition, Oxford University Press, 1993.
  8. ^ "Alcuinus on Vox pops, Vox populi, Vox pop". OxfordReference.com. Archived from the original on 4 May 2009. Retrieved 22 April 2007.
  9. ^ Martin Rule (1883). The Life and Times of St. Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of the Britains. Vol. II. Kegan Paul Trench & Co. p. 67.
  10. ^ David Lagomarsino, Charles T. Wood (2000). The Trial of Charles I: A Documentary History. "As far back as 1327, in pronouncing the deposition of Edward II, the Archbishop of Canterbury Walter Reynolds had taken as his justifying text the old Carolingian adage Vox populi, vox Dei, 'The voice of the people is the voice of God.'"
  11. ^ Philip Hamburger Law and Judicial Duty 2009 Page 74 "At the meeting of this high court early in 1327, Archbishop of Canterbury Walter Reynolds brought charges against the king, ... homage to the prince, and Archbishop Reynolds – the son of a baker – preached on the text Vox populi, vox Dei.
  12. ^ Francis Galton. "Vox Populi". 7 March 1907.
  13. ^ Safire, William (2008). Safire's Political Dictionary. Oxford University Press. p. 783. ISBN 978-0195343342. Retrieved 18 November 2015.
  14. ^ "A Few Thoughts on V from 'V for Vendetta'". The New York Observer. 16 May 2017.
  15. ^ "The Adventure of the Abbey Grange. (Continued) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - the Literature Page".
  16. ^ @elonmusk (19 November 2022). "Reinstate former President Trump" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  17. ^ Elon Musk (19 November 2022). "Elon Musk on Twitter". Retrieved 21 November 2022.
  18. ^ Todd Spangler (19 November 2022). "Donald Trump will be allowed back on Twitter, Elon Musk has decided". Variety. Retrieved 28 November 2022.
  19. ^ Mariella Moon and Karissa Bell (19 November 2022). "Elon Musk says he will unban Donald Trump after Twitter poll". Engadget. Retrieved 28 November 2022.
  20. ^ Musk, Elon (18 November 2022). "Elon Musk on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 24 November 2022.
  21. ^ Richard, Lawrence (19 November 2022). "Donald Trump reacts after Elon Musk reinstates his Twitter account, ending lifetime ban". Fox News. Retrieved 20 November 2022.
  22. ^ Musk, Elon (23 November 2022). "Elon Musk on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 24 November 2022.
  23. ^ Musk, Elon (24 November 2022). "Elon Musk". Twitter. Retrieved 24 November 2022.
  24. ^ RTTNews (25 November 2022). "Elon Musk Offers General Amnesty To Suspended Twitter Accounts". Business Insider. Retrieved 28 November 2022.
  25. ^ Amanda Yeo (25 November 2022). "Elon Musk says Twitter will give 'amnesty' to suspended accounts from next week". Mashable. Retrieved 28 November 2022.