Public Opinion and Foreign Policy.pdf

Studies thathave raised significant methodological

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Studies thathave raised significant methodological questions about the Converse findings include Achen (1975) and Sullivan, Piereson, and Marcus (1978). Another part of the controversy focuses on trends, specifically on the durability of findings that, to a large degree, drew from evidence generated during the 1950s. This was a period of American economic, political,and military dominance in foreign affairs-the shock of Sputnik in 1957 notwithstanding-with the 1956 and 1960 elections takingplace after the Korean War and before escalation of the Vietnam conflict. Domestically, the Eisenhower years were marked byrelatively low inflationand unemployment and, despite the Montgomery bus boycott and Greensboro sit-ins, the full impactof the civil rights movement had yet to be felt. Accordingto the critics, this period, both celebrated and criticized for marking "the end of ideology," is insufficiently representative for assessing the degree of ideological consistency among the general public. In support of that view, a number of analysts found that, beginning with the Johnson-Goldwater election campaign of 1964, ideological consistency among the public did in fact increase (Nie and Anderson, 1974; Nie, Verba, and Petrocik, 1976). Some corroborating evidence also appeared to emerge from Hero's (1969) assessmentof public opinion polls on domestic and foreign policy issues from the late 1930s to 1967. In general, he found a very weak relationship between the two, with some indications of a strengthening during the post-Eisenhower years. Those who claim to have found a greater ideological consistency among the general public during the turbulent era of the 1960s and 1970s have also encoun- tered criticism. Are the claims of greater issue consistency rooted in increasing ideological consciousness? Alternatively, are they merely the result of parroting of ideological rhetoric, or of some methodological artifact? This is not the place to provide a blow-by-blow account of the many and variedanswers to these and other questions on the issue; for excellent and detailed summaries of the vast literature, see Kinder (1983), Kinder and Sears (1985), and Sniderman and Tetlock (1986). It will suffice to say that there appears to be an emergingconsensus that public responses to issues are not adequately captured by the most familiar bipolar dimensions: liberal-to-conservative or internationalist-to-isolationist. If these dimensions constitute the standard, then mass public attitudes do indeed appear to lack structure. Given that tentative conclusion, does the literature on foreign policy attitudes reveal anything else about organizing concepts that might lend some coherence to masspublic attitudes on international affairs? Although the more recent research literature has yet to create a consensus on all aspects of the question, there does appear to be a considerable convergence of findings on two general points relating to belief structures: 1. Even though the general public may be rather poorly informed, attitudes about foreign affairs are in fact structured in at least moderately
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Christopher Reinemann
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