Public Opinion and Foreign Policy

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

CHAPTER TWO
DARK AREAS OF IGNORANCE

By Martin Kriesberg

THERE ARE 148,000,000 Americans. These are the people who ultimately make or break our foreign policy. They are conglomerate; among them approximately fifty racial and national groups are represented. Their emotions and thinking are influenced by many factors -- geographical, educational, economic, religious, ethnical. All these factors add to the complexity of the task of building an intelligent foreign policy which will have the solid support of a majority of the people. Yet our policy must have widespread popular support if it is to be democratic in concept and effective in action.

The task of educating and informing American public opinion in the field of foreign affairs is complex. First, we must analyze the state of public information; we have to find out what people know and what they do not know, to map the areas of ignorance. Second, we must examine popular prejudices based on misinformation. Third, we must find out where people get their information, or misinformation, about foreign affairs. With this background we can proceed to assess the effects on foreign policy of lack of information, misinformation and prejudice, and to consider what can be done to achieve a better informed opinion.


1. The Aware and the Unaware

There are some general clues as to the extent of the areas of ignorance and apathy in the nation. We have, for ex-

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