Although objectively greater demands are placed on [public opinion], it operates less as a public opinion giving a rational foundation to the exercise of political and social authority, the more it is generated for the purpose of an abstract vote that amounts to no more than an act of acclamation within a public sphere temporarily manufactured for show or manipulation.
Modern politics is a sham, according to Habermas. It is in many ways a poor replacement for the vibrant political and social discussion of a true public sphere. Although public opinion is called upon more and more frequently to legitimate state power in democratic systems, in practise it does not exist continually. Instead, "the public" is created at election time by the technicians of public opinion, in order to give a simple endorsement of state power. Instead of criticising and examining the government, this manipulated public is meant merely to agree. Habermas makes it clear that a successful democracy needs a vibrant, critical public sphere instead of this fake publicity.