National Leadership and Foreign Policy: A Case Study in the Mobilization of Public Support

By James N. Rosenau | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
National Leadership and Foreign Policy: An Empirical Wasteland

Research in the public opinion field is marked by a curious and striking discrepancy: despite widespread recognition that the formulation and conduct of foreign policy is sustained primarily by the opinion-making activities of national leaders and is only peripherally influenced by the views of ordinary citizens, it is the latter and not the former who have occupied the empirical spotlight. Findings descriptive of the attitudes of the mass public on a variety of issues are voluminous.1 No less extensive are studies of bow opinions circulate among the citizenry--of how newspapers are read, television absorbed, voluntary associations joined, opinions internalized, and information rerouted from mass media into face-to-face situations.2 In contrast to this powerful two-beamed spotlight that has played searchingly upon the attitudes and behavior patterns of the mass public, a flickering candle has barely illuminated the opinion-making public. Whereas opinion- makers are conceived as interacting in such a way as to set the tone of public debate and thereby to veto or support the policy choices of officials, the extent and manner of their

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1
See, for example, Hadley Cantril (ed.) Public Opinion, 1935-1946 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1951), pp. 1-1191.
2
The following sources are suggestive of some of the recent work done in these areas of communications research: Richard E. Chapin, Mass Communications, A Statistical Analysis (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1957); Alfred O. Hero, Mass Media and World Affairs ( Boston: World Peace Foundation, 1959); Elihu Katz and Paul F. Lazarsfeld , Personal Influence (Glencoe: The Free Press, 1955); M. Brewster Smith , Jerome S. Bruner, and Robert W. White, Opinions and Personality ( New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1956); and Charles R. Wright and Herbert H. Hyman, "Voluntary Association Memberships of American Adults: Evidence from National Sample Surveys," American Sociological Review, Vol. 23 ( June 1958), pp. 284-94. Perhaps the best and most up-to-date summary of the state of the field is V. O. Key Jr., Public Opinion and American Democracy ( New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1961).

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