Public Opinion and Foreign Policy

By Lester Markel; Council on Foreign Relations. | Go to book overview
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FOREWORD

IN March 1947 a group of Council members met to organize a study of public opinion in its relation to United States foreign policy. Three facts gave point to the study: (1) the growing power of propaganda as a factor in international relations, (2) changes in the techniques of instructing and influencing public opinion through new media of mass communication, and (3) the uncertainty of American policy with respect to public opinion operations both at home and abroad.

Public opinion is vital but elusive, difficult to capture and record in books and documents. So the Council first brought together a small group of its members who were knowledgeable in the fields of mass communication and foreign policy to advise on the project, to give direction to the study and to discuss major issues. Lester Markel, Sunday editor of the New York Times, was asked to serve as chairman. At a number of meetings, officials of the U. S. Department of State and the Department of Army explained their activities in the field of public opinion. At other meetings Washington correspondents described and commented on the handling of press relations by the White House and the State Department.

Meanwhile, the process of collecting basic data had begun. For this purpose the Council enlisted the services of three scholars who had specialized in the psychology of American public opinion in its relation to the democratic process. They were W. Phillips Davison, editor of the Public Opinion Quarterly; Dr. Martin Kriesberg, of the Department of Political Science at the University of Michigan; and Avery Leiserson, Assistant Professor of Political Science at

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