The Foreign Policy DisconnectWhat Americans Want from Our Leaders but Don't Get

The Foreign Policy DisconnectWhat Americans Want from Our Leaders but Don't Get

Benjamin I. Page and Marshall M. Bouton

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780226644615

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


With world affairs so troubled, what kind of foreign policy should the United States pursue? This book looks for answers in a surprising place: among the American people. Drawing on a series of national surveys conducted between 1974 and 2004, the authors reveal that—contrary to conventional wisdom—Americans generally hold durable, coherent, and sensible opinions about foreign policy. Nonetheless, their opinions often stand in opposition to those of policymakers, usually because of different interests and values, rather than superior wisdom among the elite. The book argues that these gaps between leaders and the public are harmful, and that by using public opinion as a guideline, policymakers could craft a more effective, sustainable, and democratic foreign policy. The authors support this argument by painting a comprehensive portrait of the military, diplomatic, and economic foreign policies Americans favor. They show, for example, that protecting American jobs is just as important to the public as security from attack, a goal the current administration seems to pursue single-mindedly. And contrary to some officials' unilateral tendencies, the public consistently and overwhelmingly favors cooperative multilateral policy and participation in international treaties. Moreover, Americans' foreign policy opinions are seldom divided along the usual lines: majorities of virtually all social, ideological, and partisan groups seek a policy that pursues the goals of security and justice through cooperative means.