This study began with the question of whether U.S. policymakers understand U.S. public majority attitudes, particularly regarding U.S. foreign policy in the post-cold war era. Although elected officials and those who advise them generally have an incentive to understand the public, this does not mean that they necessarily do. To examine the link between the public and the policymaking community, this study focused on a prominent trend in U.S. foreign policy in the post-cold war period away from U.S. international engagement, especially forms that emphasize cooperation with other countries. This trend has been reflected in a reduction of spending on international diplomacy, U.S. arrearages on UN dues, U.S. resistance to contributing troops to UN peacekeeping efforts, and significant cuts in foreign aid.
A key question, then, is whether such a trend in U.S. foreign policy reflects a trend in public attitudes. In public discourse many policymakers have made the case that the trend is not only consistent with public attitudes but is driven by them. Members of the policymaking community have often asserted that they support international engagement (and surveys of the U.S. leadership support this contention), but that, unfortunately, disengagement is a necessary accommodation to the public. However, a preliminary reading of polling data and previous research conducted at the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland by