Quotes from The Foreign Policy Disconnect, by Benjamin Page and Marshall Bouton

- ‘We will describe in detail the collective policy preferences of the American public – or, if you wish, ‘public opinion’ about foreign policy. It turns out that most Americans want a foreign policy that places a high priority on economic and social security at home and justice abroad, not just security from attack. Moreover, most Americans favor cooperative, multilateral foreign policies – peaceful, when possible – rather than unilateral military ones. We will see that actual US foreign policy has often diverged markedly from what the public wants.’ (ix)
- ‘Our argument flies in the face of claims that public opinion about foreign policy is ignorant, emotional, vacillating, and perhaps downright dangerous to coherent policy marking.’ (ix)
- ‘[Historically,] the United States eventually settled on a protectionist trade policy, imposing high tariffs on imported manufactured goods. Tariff duties constituted the chief source of federal government revenue.’ (11)
- ‘Skepticism about public opinion goes back at least to the founders of the United States, who feared the ‘passions’ of ordinary citizens and tried to hedge them with institutions designed to resist any hasty responsiveness to the public: an indirectly elected Senate, an indirectly elected president, and an appointed Supreme Court, each wielding separate powers, exerting checks and balances against each other and restraining the more popularly oriented House of Representatives. In Federalist Paper number 63, for example, James Madison argued that an institution such as the proposed Senate (whose members were originally to be selected by state legislatures rather than the voters) ‘may sometimes by necessary as a defense to the people against their own temporary errors and delusions.’ ’ (18-19)
- ‘Researchers have repeatedly found that the average American, who is often busy with work, family, and other concerns, does not know or care a great deal about politics.’ (21)
- ‘But it turns out that a high level of political knowledge about individual citizens is not necessarily critical for the existence of a coherent, well-informed collective public opinion.’ (22)
- ‘In recent years an increasing body of evidence has indicated that aggregate or collective public opinion has characteristics quite different from the characteristics of most individual citizens’ opinions. Collective opinion (as indicated, for example, by what percentage of the public favors a certain policy) tends to be rather stable over time.’ (22)
- ‘If biased or misleading information in the political system, or systematic errors in surveys, lead to nonrandom errors that affect many respondents in the same way, survey data can lead us astray about the authentic views of the citizenry.’ (24)
- ‘It is well established that what is reported in the mass media has substantial effects on what people thing about politically and what policy preferences they express.’ (27)
- ‘There is also abundant evidence that – in the realm of foreign policy – the mass media tend to rely heavily on public officials as news sources and to voice opinions that are mostly in harmony with official foreign policy.’ (27)
- ‘Various foreign policy positions taken by majorities of Americans tend to fit together logically and coherently, just as if they were taken by a single, rather reasonable individual.’ (30)
- ‘The data we use to describe and analyze Americans’ opinions about foreign policy come chiefly from a series of nine national opinion studies that were conducted by the Gallup, Harris, and Knowledge Networks survey organizations for the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations every four years between 1974 and 2002, with an additional study in 2004.’ (32)
- ‘Should not the American people themselves decide what is in the national interest?’ (42)
- ‘There is no escaping the fact that most Americans put their own well-being and their own country’s welfare ahead of the welfare of people who live abroad. At the same time, we should not conclude that the US public does not care at all about human rights, democracy, or poverty in other countries. In each case, roughly one-third to one-half of Americans call these altruistic and humanitarian goals ‘very important,’ and many more said they should be at least ‘somewhat important.’ Indeed, if one adds together the ‘very’ and ‘somewhat’ important responses, fully 90 percent said that promoting and defending human rights in other countries should be an important goal of US foreign policy. The comparable figure for strengthening international and institutions was 86 percent; for protecting weaker nations against aggression, 91 percent; for helping to bring a democratic form of government to other nations, 83 percent; and for helping to improve the standard of living of less developed nations, 86 percent.’ (43)
- ‘Domestic well-being has been a central concern of the American public in all post-Cold War surveys. Job protection ranked at or near the top every time, with 80 to 85 percent of Americans generally saying it should be a very important goal of US foreign policy.’ (51)
- ‘Over the years, responses to the ‘biggest foreign policy problems’ question have generally reflected world events and crises reported in the headlines of the day.’ (54)
- ‘We found that the power of individuals’ personal characteristics to predict how much importance they attributed to various foreign policy goals was very weak. We used a comprehensive set of fourteen demographic characteristics: gender, marital status, level of formal education, income, two measures of employment status, age, three racial/ethnic dichotomous variables (Hispanic, African-American, Asian), and four religious dichotomous variables (Evangelical, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim). For only four of the twenty goals – protecting jobs, stopping drugs, strengthening the UN, and improving the global environment – could more than 5 percent of the variance in importance ratings by accounted for by these demographic factors, and in no case did it reach 10 percent.’ (58-59)
- ‘Protecting the jobs of American workers was considered significantly more important by people with less formal education, women, African Americans [sic], lower-income people, and Catholics.’ (59)
- ‘In 2002, for example, those who had not graduated from high school were much more likely than those who had done postgraduate work – by fully 34 percentage points (94 percent, compared to 60 percent) to say that protecting the jobs of American workers should be a very important goal of US foreign policy. This relationship held up in multiple regressions that controlled for thirteen other personal characteristics.’ (61)
- ‘Less-educated people – whose children are more exposed to drugs and drug-related crime and violence in their schools and neighborhoods – much more often than the highly educated, by 29 percentage points (92 percent, compared to 63 percent), said that stopping illegal drugs from entering the United States should be a very important foreign policy goal. This relationship, too, held up in multivariate analysis. Similarly, more formal education (controlling for other factors) led to less emphasis on the importance of controlling and reducing illegal immigration, which poses greater economic and cultural threats to lower-status Americans.’ (61-62)
- ‘Education-related differences in goals often tend to reflect differences in values that are related to peoples’ social positions.’ (62)
- ‘[In 2002,] there were no significant gender differences with regard to international terrorism or military strength, perhaps because the September 11 attacks had moved closer to the hawkishness of men. But women were significantly more likely than men – by about 9 to 13 percentage points – to call various altruistic or humanitarian goals ‘very important.’ ’ (64)
- ‘Various sorts of ‘generation gaps’ between younger and older Americans have been observed in attitudes about domestic politics and policies, but age differences concerning foreign policy have generally been weak….however, the old in 2002 placed more importance than the young – controlling for other personal characteristics – on maintaining superior military power and especially on stopping illegal drugs and controlling and reducing illegal immigration.’ (64-65)
- ‘With respect to foreign policy goals, in 2002 self-declared liberals were (in bivariate terms) considerably more likely than conservatives to say that improving the global environment should be a very important goal: 85 percent of liberals said so, as against 52 percent of conservatives, a difference of 33 percentage points. Nearly as big was the ideological divergence over promoting and defending human rights abroad; more liberals than conservatives considered this very important, by 23 percentage points.’ (69)
- ‘On security from attack concerns, conservatives were much more apt than liberals to endorse maintaining superior military power worldwide as a very important goal, by (in bivariate terms) 24 percentage points. Conservatives were also quicker to favor several domestic well-being goals that may involve a mixture of cultural anxiety and economic nationalism; more conservatives than liberals attributed great importance to controlling and reducing illegal immigration (by 17 points), stopping the flow of illegal drugs, securing adequate energy supplies, and protecting the interests of American business abroad.’ (69-70)
- ‘More Americans tend to see vital interests in big countries that have substantial economic or military resources and are US allies or competitors. (In 2002, these included Japan, Saudi Arabia, China, Russia, Israel, Great Britain, and Canada.) Many Americans also perceive vital interests in countries regarded as potential regional threats, or trouble spots (Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan).’ (77-78)
- ‘Great Britain…in 2002 received an average [perception] rating of 76 degrees [out of 100]; as in every previous CCFR survey, Britain came in second only to Canada.’ (78)
- ‘Interestingly, however, even during the Cold War period the Soviet Union was never despised as thoroughly by Americans as supposedly ‘rogue,’ pariah states like Iran or Iraq – or individual leaders like Idi Amin, Muammar Gadhafi, Fidel Castro, Ayatollah Khomeini, or Saddam Hussein.’ (81)
- ‘With little variation over the years (at least since the 1973 opening, the period covered by CCFR surveys), the People’s Republic of China has generally received coolish to neutral – not cold – average thermometer ratings, mostly in the high 40-degree range.’ (81)
- ‘Most countries in Africa, like most in South America, are barely visible to many Americans.’ (83)
- ‘Most Americans have never felt particularly warm toward Arab or Muslim countries in the Middle East or elsewhere. This is true even of major strategic allies of the United States like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Turkey and has become all the more true since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Muslim countries and political leaders that are seen as hostile to the United states or Western values, or as having a connection with terrorism, are viewed quite negatively.’ (84)
- ‘On the whole, our results indicate that Americans’ feelings toward most foreign countries – like their assessments of most foreign policy goals – are only modestly affected by their personal and social characteristics. Except in the cases of Great Britain and Poland, not even 10 percent of the variation in thermometer scores for any of the thirty-one countries or peoples could be accounted for by the fourteen demographic variables, and the average was only about 5 percent.’ (88)
- ‘One consistent and moderately strong demographic effect was that older people – controlling for other factors – felt cooler than young people toward a number of countries: particularly countries in Africa, Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East but also France and Poland. (Older people felt warmer than the young toward Great Britain, however.) An increase of thirty years in age typically led to a 4- to 8-degree lower thermometer rating.’ (89)
- ‘By far the biggest religious or ethnic effects, however, were those of being Jewish or Muslim upon feelings about countries and leaders in the Middle East….This would be enough to boost the average American’s near-neutral 55-degree rating of Israel to an extremely warm rating of 85 degrees, higher than the general-public rating for any country or leader in the world.’ (93-94)
- ‘Being Jewish led to a roughly 25-degree lower thermometer rating of the Palestinians, who were then (in 2002) locked in violent conflict with the Israelis, and roughly 20-degree lower ratings of ‘the Muslim people.’ ’ (94)
- ‘These distinctive feelings do not appear to reflect undiscriminating Jewish hostility toward Islam or Muslims, but rather political calculations related to Israel. Predominantly Muslim countries not opposed to Israel, such as Israel’s strategic ally Turkey, or some distance from Israel, like Afghanistan and Pakistan, did not receive significantly more negative ratings from American Jews.’ (94)
- ‘American Muslims tended to feel much warmer than others toward ‘the Muslim people’ and the Palestinians: warmer by a remarkable 50 degrees or so.’ (94)
- ‘Evangelicals tended (with controls for other demographic factors) to give 11-degree warmer ratings to Israel and 20-degree warmer ratings to Sharon.’ (95)
- ‘Most Americans are comfortable with the idea of the United States as the world’s sole military superpower. Most support a high level of spending on the armed forces. Most favor commitments to military alliances like NATO, and most support the stationing of US troops in long-term bases around the world. Most Americans also favor the use of armed force [sic] in certain circumstances, especially when directed against terrorism. And there is a very high level of support for US participation in humanitarian and peacekeeping operations. At the same time, there is little if any evidence of indiscriminate blood-mindedness in the American public. Since the 2001 terrorist attacks there has been a substantial willingness to use force but only under particular conditions. Beyond relatively low-cost, direct operations against terrorists (e.g., using bombs or troops to destroy terrorist camps), most Americans prefer diplomatic methods, with major uses of force as a last resort.’ (100)
- ‘Whites, men, evangelical Protestants, older people, and those with high levels of income and education, for example, tend to be more willing to use military force under various circumstances. So do conservatives, Republicans, ‘active part’ internationalists, and people who embrace the goals of defending US allies, maintaining superior military power worldwide, and protecting weaker nations against aggression. On the other hand, the use of US armed forces for humanitarian and peacekeeping purposes is often favored more by women, African Americans, lower-income people, liberals, and others who want to combat world hunger, strengthen international law, and protect human rights.’ (101)
- ‘A hefty 84 percent of the public (up substantially since 1998) said they would favor ‘attacks by US ground troops against terrorist training camps and other facilities.’ The possibility of suffering some casualties, then, did not inhibit the public from risking US troops in the context of a direct attack upon terrorists….In 2002 a very large majority (87 percent) also favored US air strikes against terrorist training camps.’ (104)
- ‘Large majorities, in the 76 percent to 81 percent range, for example, said they favored using US troops to assist a population struck by famine, to stop a government from committing genocide and killing large numbers of its own people, to liberate hostages, or – remarkably – ‘to uphold international law.’ ’ (104)
- ‘About two-thirds of the US public favored using US troops to ‘fight drug lords in Columbia,’ where covert US operations (perhaps related to oil as well as drugs) were in fact under war. Nearly two-thirds also favored using troops to ‘ensure the supply of oil.’ ’ (106)
- ‘Only 48 percent of Americans favored using US troops to defend Israel or Saudi Arabia, with 45 percent and 46 percent opposed, respectively, Only 36 percent said they favored using troops to defend South Korea, and 32 percent to defend Taiwan. Again in 2004, only minorities favored using US troops to defend Israel, South Korea, or Taiwan. The history of responses to these questions indicates that the American public, at least in the post-Vietnam period for which we have data, has continued to oppose most uses of US troops in major war situations likely to be costly in dollars and lives.’ (108)
- ‘Multilateralism mattered. When a different CCFR question spelled out three alternative positions and inquired which ‘is closest to yours,’ a solid majority – 65 percent – said, ‘The US should only invade Iraq with UN approval and the support of its Allies.’ Only 20 percent said, ‘The US should invade Iraq even if we have to go it alone’ (13 percent said, ‘The US should not invade Iraq’).’ (109)
- ‘Just before the invasion, some survey evidence suggested that a bare majority of Americans had come to favor invading Iraq even without a new UN resolution. In order to understand the American public’s acquiescence in the invasion of Iraq, however, it is important to bear in mind what the public had been told. The Bush administration implied that Iraq posed an imminent threat to the United States itself, alluding to the prospect of ‘mushroom clouds,’ an alleged program of drone airplanes that might deliver biological weapons to the east coast, and alleged ties with al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations that might be given ‘weapons of mass destruction.’ ’ (110)
- ‘About one-fifth of the public (22 percent) said, ‘The US should never use nuclear weapons under any circumstances.’ An additional 55 percent said, ‘The US should only use nuclear weapons in response to a nuclear attack.’ Only about one-fifth of the public, 21 percent, said that ‘in certain circumstances, the US should use nuclear weapons even if [sic] has not suffered a nuclear attack.’ ’ (113)
- ‘Expanding or cutting back government programs (114)

About the same
Cut back
Health care
Aid to education
Programs to combat violence and crime
Gathering intelligence information about other countries
Homeland security
Social Security
Defense spending
Economic aid to other nations
Military aid to other nations
- ‘In five of the first seven CCFR surveys (all except 1978 and the virtual tie of 1998), the proportion of Americans wanting to cut back on defense spending exceeded the proportion wanting to expand it. In post-9/11 2002, however, the proportion of the public saying that defense spending should be expanded jumped to 44 percent, the highest figure in all eight surveys (14 percentage points higher than in 1998) and the first time in twenty-four years that support for expansion clearly exceeded support for cutting back (which dropped to only 15 percent).’ (115)
- ‘Only a very small minority of the public (14 percent) said the United States should ‘not build a missile defense system at all,’ but only a minority (31 percent) said we should ‘build a missile defense system right away.’ A majority of Americans, 52 percent, said we should ‘do more research until such a system is proven to be effective.’ ’ (116)
- ‘57 percent said the United States should have ‘about as many as we have now’ and 25 percent said ‘more bases overseas,’ while only 14 percent said fewer.’ (117)
- ‘56 percent of Americans in the 2002 survey said NATO is ‘still essential to our country’s security,’ with just 30 percent saying ‘it is no longer essential.’ ’ (118)
- ‘Fully 68 percent – favored including Russia in NATO.’ (119)
- ‘An even bigger majority (71 percent to 17 percent) said that US should solve international problems together with other countries rather than continuing to be the preeminent world leader And most (61 percent versus 31 percent) said that in international crises the United States should not act alone if it does not have the support of its allies.’ (119)
- ‘In 2002 just 18 percent favored armed sales, while 77 percent opposed them.’ (121)
- ‘In 2002, a solid majority of the public (70 percent) agreed with the statement that ‘when dealing with common problems, the US and the European Union should be more willing to make decisions jointly, even if this means that the US, as well as Europe, will sometimes have to go along with a policy that is not its first choice.’ Only 27 percent disagreed. At the same time, there are limits. Rather few Americans (just 33 percent) in 2002 said the European Union should ‘become a superpower, like the United States,’ while 52 percent said the United states should remain the only superpower.’ (141)
- ‘Even when dealing with nations perceived as enemies, such as the countries that President George W. Bush dubbed the ‘axis of evil’ – Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Iran, and North Korea – most Americans want to maintain diplomatic relations and to hold open the possibility of negotiations rather than conflict. In 2002 substantial majorities favored having diplomatic relations with North Korea (65 percent to 32 percent) and with Iran (58 percent to 38 percent). Even Iraq, which at that time was more feared and despised by Americans than any other country in the world  and was subject to escalating threats of US invasion, won a bare plurality (49 percent to 47 percent) of support for having diplomatic relations. Similarly, a solid majority of Americans (65 percent) favored having diplomatic relations with Cuba, a longtime US nemesis; only 31 percent were opposed, despite most people’s negative feelings toward that country and its leader, Fidel Castro.’ (144-145)
- ‘When questioned about measures to combat terrorism in the 2002 survey, for example, fully 89 percent of the public favored ‘diplomatic efforts to apprehend suspects and dismantle terrorist training camps’ (only 9 percent were opposed), compared with the 87 percent who favored US air strikes and the 84 percent who favored attacks by US ground troops.’ (146)
- ‘In the 2002 CCFR survey, a plurality of Americans (40 percent to 35 percent) said they favored ‘the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.’ ’ (150)
- ‘When asked in 2002 whether, in the Middle East conflict, the United States should ‘take Israel’s side, take the Palestinians’ side, or not take either side,’ a solid majority of 71 percent said ‘not take either side.’ ’ (150)
- ‘ ‘When the US disapproves of Israeli military operations against the Palestinians,’ 46 percent said they favored ‘telling Israel not to use US-provided battlefield weapons,’ while 44 percent opposed that policy.’ (150)
- ‘Jewish respondents, though overwhelmingly pro-Israel, rather strongly tended to favor a Palestinian state: 72 percent did so, as contrasted with only 44 percent of Catholics and 38 percent of Protestants.’ (151)
- ‘Regarding Iraqi itself, clear majorities of Americans – contrary to US official policy – favored the United Nations’ directing humanitarian relief and economic reconstruction (57 percent) and continuing the oil-for-food program (70 percent). Only 29 percent said the US military should be responsible for relief and reconstruction efforts. Even for maintaining civil order in Iraq, 54 percent preferred ‘an UN police force of police officers from various countries’ rather than the US military.’ (157)
- ‘International treaties and agreements (162)

US should participate
US should not participate
The treaty that would prohibit nuclear weapon test explosions worldwide
The treaty that bans all use of land mines
The agreement that would establish an International Criminal Court that would try individuals for war crimes, genocide, or crimes against humanity if their own country won’t try them
The Kyoto agreement to reduce global warming
- ‘The saga mounted after the summer 2002 CCFR survey, as the US government mounted a high-pressure, worldwide campaign for long-term bilateral agreements not to subject any American nationals located in the country with which the pacts were made to ICC jurisdiction. Many small countries like Azerbaijan, Bhutan, Gabon, Maldives, and Tuvalu – and, more importantly, Afghanistan and Bosnia, where American troops were actually operating – signed such agreements, often under the threat that otherwise military aid would be cut off under the so-called American Servicemen’s Protection Act. (The US ambassador to the Bahamas, for example, warned that Bahamians could lose US aid earmarked for paving and lighting the airport runway in Inagua if they did not sign.) A total of eighty countries had signed bilateral US-immunity agreements (some in secret) by mid-2004.’ (167-168)
- ‘The founders of the United States did not intend to establish a majoritarian democracy. They wrote into the Constitution many barriers to majority rule, some of which (e.g., the pro-rural, small-state bias of the Senate that results from giving each state two senators) still persist. Over the last two hundred years voting rights have been extended to most previously disenfranchised groups, and the citizenry has won a more direct role in elections for the presidency and the Senate. But there remains a great deal of political inequality.’ (171)
- ‘The two-party system, deeply embedded in constitutional and legal provisions, permits explicit or implicit bipartisan agreements to defy the popular will (e.g., on certain economic issues, discussed in the next chapter). It gives power to party activists and money givers who influence which candidates the voters are allowed to choose between. The two-party system has also contributed to the absence in the United States of a working-people’s party that could (as in much of the advanced industrialized world) mobilize ordinary citizens.’ (171)
- ‘Burdensome personal registration of voters and other legal provisions (such as the lack of a national holiday for voting) discourage participation in elections, especially among lower-income citizens, thus biasing the composition of the electorate and distorting the voice of the public.’ (172)
- ‘Information control by the executive branch. In foreign affairs the president and executive branch often control the flow of information, sometimes having – or claiming to have – unique access to secret information. This can permit them to manipulate opinion and engineer consent, at least temporarily, to policies that would be unpopular if the public were fully informed.’ (172)
- ‘By the late 1990s, many more Americans considered economic globalization to be ‘mostly good’ for the United States than considered it ‘mostly bad.’ This continued to be true in 2002, by a solid 56 percent to 27 percent margin, and also in 2004.’ (176)
- ‘An overwhelming 93 percent of the public in 2002 (and 94 percent in 2004) said that ‘countries that are part of international trade agreements should…be required to maintain minimum standards for working conditions.’ This may reflect concerns about uS jobs and wages; it may also be motivated partly be justice-related concerns about the fate of workers abroad.’ (179)
- ‘Most Americans – an overwhelming 94 percent in 2002 and 91 percent in 2004 – also said that ‘countries that are part of international trade agreements should…be required to maintain minimum standards for protection of the environment.’ ’ (180)
- ‘Most Americans favor economic sanctions against specific countries that are seen as enemies of the United States or as flagrant violators of human rights. In 2002, for example, 66 percent favored economic sanctions against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, 63 percent against Iran, 58 percent against North Korea, 51 percent against Cuba and – despite official policy running in the opposite direction – 51 percent against China.’ (182)
- ‘George Borjas has calculated that the upsurge of immigration between 1980 and 2000 reduced the average annual earnings of native-born American men by about $1,700, or roughly 4 percent. Those hardest hit were workers with low skill levels who competed directly with low-skill immigrants from Mexico. Native-born workers without a high school diploma lost, on average, 7.4 percent of their weekly wages. The impact was also high on African Americans (who lost 4.5 percent of wages) and native-born Hispanics (who lost 5.0 percent).’ (186)
- ‘Conventional wisdom holds that the paucity of US foreign aid has reflected ordinary Americans’ aversion to aid – that the American public adamantly opposes foreign aid of virtually any sort. At first glance some survey data do seem to support this view. In general terms, the balance of Americans’ opinions has always tilted toward reducing rather than increasing overall aid programs, and more people want to decrease than to increase aid to most specific countries or regions. A closer look, however, reveals that the opposition is partly based on extreme overestimates of how much money the United States is actually spending on aid. And opposition is mostly directed toward ‘waste’ or toward military and strategic uses of aid. Survey questions that focus on justice-related humanitarian and altruistic forms of foreign aid, such as help with food supplies, medical care, and economic development, show a high level of public support.’ (190-191)
- ‘When respondents were asked, ‘Just based on what you know, please tell me your hunch about what percentage of the federal budget goes to foreign aid,’ the median response was 20 percent. This is far more – astoundingly more – than the less than one-half of 1 percent of the budget that actually goes for foreign economic aid.’ (192)
- ‘Support for humanitarian foreign aid
Type of aid
Food and medical assistance to people in needy countries
Aid for women’s education in poor countries to help reduce population growth
Assistance with the prevention and treatment of AIDS in poor countries
Aid that helps needy countries develop their economies
Aid for birth control in poor countries to help reduce population growth
Assistance to promote democracy abroad
- ‘Each of the eight CCFR studies between 1974 and 2002 involved a survey of elite ‘foreign policy leaders’ (including decision makers in the executive branch, the House of Representatives, and the US Senate) as well as the general public surveys we have analyzed in previous chapters.’ (204-205)
- ‘It seems important to check how often majorities of foreign policy decision makers disagree with majorities of citizens on these survey questions. When we do so, we see that the answer is, rather often. Table 7.3 shows that over the 1974-2002 period as a whole, majorities of policy makers took stands opposed by majorities of the general public on 26 percent – about one-quarter – of the 1,153 common items.’ (209)
- ‘Policy makers’ sharpest disconnect from public opinion does, as expected by some interest group analysts, occur in the economic realm, presumably because business corporations care most about economic policies, differ sharply from the public on many of them, and have substantial influence over what the government does.’ (212)
- ‘Table 7.5 indicates that majorities of policy makers and of the general public took opposite sides on fully one-third of all economic policy questions (33 percent), with a peak of 50 percent in 1994 – a year in which the Democrats controlled both Congress and the presidency.’ (212)
- ‘In 1994 officials departed from the majority of citizens who thought that the protection of American jobs should be a very important foreign policy goal (just 42 percent of officials versus 84 percent of the public). Large majorities of government officials bucked public opinion by favoring elimination of tariffs (91 percent versus only 40 percent of the public) and judging that Europe genuinely practiced free trade (71 percent versus 48 percent). Officials were also much more certain that NAFTA was ‘mostly good’ (91 percent versus 62 percent).’ (212-213)
- ‘Opposing majorities have also been less common, and only a little more frequent on defense issues (28 percent) than on diplomatic issues (22 percent).’ (213-214)
- ‘If officials’ superior wisdom were the main source of gaps between their policy preferences and those of the general public, one would expect that the most highly educated and best informed citizens would hold different policy preferences – preferences more like those of officials – than their fellow citizens do. But we have found that education and information (controlling for other factors) have had only sporadic effects, mainly related to the evaluations of obscure policies and low-salience foreign countries. When we controlled for income, ethnicity, religion, gender, and other demographic characteristics, again and again we found that formal education had no more than moderate effects on policy preferences.’ (224)
- ‘The US public is sometimes accused of having become disillusioned with the [Vietnam] war and having ‘deserted’ the administration. Archival evidence indicates, however, that the Johnson administration closely monitored public opinion and, in important respects, quite deliberately turned its back on the preferences of most Americans from the very outset of military escalation. The public’s turn against the Vietnam war should thus be seen not as a case of the public deserting government officials but as the opposite: an example of policy makers’ knowingly disregarding the public’s preferences.’ (225)
- ‘Representatives would do well to recognize that the constituents in their particular districts are not much different from the national public. As we have seen repeatedly, demographic characteristics and party affiliations generally make little difference to foreign policy preferences.’ (243)
- ‘One time-honored strategy, which can be carried out by organized citizens’ groups, by journalists, or even by committed private individuals, is to make a fuss. Loudly pointing out – through print or electronic media, or by protests and demonstrations – cases in which officials are blatantly defying the will of the citizenry should increase voters’ awareness of the discrepancies and heighten concern about them; it should increase the likelihood that Americans will hold their officials accountable at the polls. Officials, alert to the danger of a reckoning, might then change policy to head it off. It is much harder to defy the public’s will in the full glare of public attention.’ (243)
- ‘One simple way to do this would be to make election day a national holiday, as most of the world does, so that working people have plenty of time to get to the polls. It would also be feasible to repeal (at either the state or federal level) state measures that disenfranchise ex-felons, make registration difficult, and restrict voting opportunities – especially in populous urban areas – by limiting access to polling places and voting machines. Better still would be to replace the system that requires personal registration with universal, automatic registration of all citizens by government and to institute a small fine for not voting.’ (244)

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