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The American Heritages Dictionary, fourth edition, defines public in terms of the community or the people as a whole; hence the public makes an electoral decision by simple majority vote. But the dictionary provides a secondary definition as well: "‘a group of people sharing a common interest as in the reading public." From that perspective, those people could be called special interest groups. Others view a "public" as constituted of a variety of stakeholder groups, whether few or many depending on the practical situation (Schlossberg and Shuford 2005). In publicdecision contexts associated with risk to resources due to hazards, people who are potenetially impacted are called interested and affected parties (National Research Council 1996). People as a whole do not lose their interests/values just because someone refers to them "as a whole," if we remember that "the whole" is a pluralistic public. Despite the multiple terms used, the idea of stakeholder groups as a pluralistic public (or stakeholder public) provides a meaningful interpretation for characterizing a public. Everyone in a public has a stake in something at sometime, somewhere, though at any given place and time those stakes might be different.

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