The Importance of the Unpopular Opinion

By Jewell Porter ’16


We all know that guy. The one who has the opinion that is not just different than those expressed by a group of people but so different that it causes an emotionally negative response from the group.

But here’s an unpopular opinion: the unpopular opinion is important to the context of the conversation, so we should value it just as much as we value the opinions of those without it. This seems simple enough, but it also seems that we forget this in the everyday conversations and interactions we have with our friends, classmates and professors.

The unpopular opinion often helps a conversation or debate in two ways.

First, it forces its opposers to think outside the box in their attempt to show that their opinion is the correct one. If our arguments are never challenged, then how can we ever expect to know how to support them from someone whose opinion is radically different than our own?

Second, the unpopular opinion can bring a new, interesting dynamic to a conversation that we didn’t think of before. By the end of the conversation, we might end up seeing some things differently than we did before the conversation began. Maybe the unpopular opinion wasn’t as crazy as we thought it was before.

The unpopular opinion also plays a role in national politics. In these cases, it seems that the unpopular opinion can become the popular opinion. For example, Donald Trump’s presidency. Before he gained traction in the polls, Trump’s opinion was seen as the unpopular opinion.

But the unpopular opinion seemed to actually be the popular opinion shared by members of the Republican Party who may not have felt that their interests were being represented prior to Trump’s bid for the presidency. Many of his supporters say that they appreciate his honest (albiet bigoted) comments that he’s made throughout the election.

This presents another dynamic to the unpopular opinion: maybe many people actually shared that opinion but they weren’t brave enough to say it. It’s important for us to empower individuals to speak this unpopular opinion because it gives them the agency to own their opinions, but it also gives opposers the opportunity to explain why another way of thinking is worth considering.

But the problem with the unpopular opinion is that we often don’t interact with enough people unlike us in order to get the unpopular opinion. At Denison, the only time most students have the opportunity to interact with fellow Denisonians who share different views is on Yik Yak where opinions are anonymous, giving the author the ability to share their opinions rudely and without evidence.

Sure, students can still share their opinion in this manner when they are not speaking under the guise of a character like on Yik Yak, but they are much less likely to do so.

Frankly, in the current age, it is becoming more and more important for us all to know how to deal with people whose opinions are wildly different from our own because this is merely the training ground for what we will experience in our future day to day lives.

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