Knowing what's on the minds of people is critical to the success of a public relations initiative. Expensive surveys and polls can track attitudes. These are scientific, which means the results are valid, and can be designed to delve into specific topics.
Another way to track public sentiment is more passive and a lot less expensive: Reading a newspaper's letters to the editor or the online comments to stories.
The Los Angeles Times now makes it easier to assess reader sentiments through a weekly chart on their opinion blog. The latest chart shows that people inclined to voice their opinions were more concerned about the octuplets' mom than the looming California budget crisis. Nearly three times as many letter-writers were upset with the octuplets' mom than they were over the possibility of major tax increases.