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Taking Public Opinion Seriously

Taking Public Opinion Seriously

Chapter:
(p.17) Chapter One Taking Public Opinion Seriously
Source:
The Foreign Policy Disconnect
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226644592.003.0002

Many American elites, including many foreign policy decision makers, scholars, and commentators, believe that the expressed opinions of the citizenry do not deserve much respect. They argue that most ordinary people do not devote serious time or attention to world affairs. Most do not have sufficient knowledge or skills to figure out how to protect U.S. national interests in a complex and rapidly changing world. Indeed—according to some skeptics—most people hold no real opinions at all about foreign policy: any responses they give to pollsters' questions are facile, thoughtless, top-of-the-head reactions, subject to drastic change the next time the same question is asked. Built on such shaky foundations, critics say, collective public opinion is unstable, unable to take the long view, and subject to emotional swings. This chapter explains, in general theoretical terms, why the critics are wrong and how it is possible that public opinion should be taken seriously. It also describes the data and methods used in the rest of the book.

Keywords:   United States, foreign policy, public opinion, citizenry

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