annoying phrase that comes up in political rhetoric. how can anyone ever hope to catch even the mildest essence of public opinion?
there are only two ways you can try and extract the vitriol of popular thought: the first is through the media and the second is through acquaintances. it's possible that there's a third, through campaigning and talking to the average joe, but the average joe isn't going to tell you precisely what he thinks about every issue unless you know him well.
the media is skewered and biased. acquaintances are not an accurate depiction of the way the population want stuff done.
thus, no political who has ever said 'the people' has been talking about what the people want.