That collective opinion was wrong, in other words. The skill required of politicians is to decide when they might know better than popular opinion, and to reject the latter. Unfortunately, that this is the case is now very widely forgotten. In the age of both populism and the near universal desire to appease focus groups politicians think it their job to deliver what people think they want. But the role that they have is not that simple. If only they appreciated that the world would be a much better place.
It is for the politician to take the unpopular, hopefully wise, decision that rises above the lowest common denominator that public opinion sometimes is. Wisdom does not always belong to crowds, and it is not elitist to say so. It is instead recognition that the opinion of crowds can be subject to many malign influences (from the mainstream press onwards) that have to be filtered and appraised before the right course of action can be found.