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Article

Jozef Bátora

Public opinion has long been associated with diplomacy. The earliest records of public involvement in diplomacy are available from the city-states of ancient Greece, where diplomats in the Greek city-states were chosen by public assemblies following thorough public deliberations. However, the growth of a sense of professional community among diplomats following the rise of foreign ministries led to a gradual structuring of the communication patterns. Most generally, a cleavage started to appear between modes of communication in relation to actors within the professional community and in relation to actors outside it. Within the diplomatic community, communication followed the rules, norms, and procedures of emerging diplomatic practice and ceremony. Outside the diplomatic community, the patterns that emerged can be conceptualized along two paths: (1) information gathering, and (2) informing the public at home and abroad about foreign policy. Modern professional diplomacy has been seeking to strike a balance between limiting public access to diplomatic processes and trying to communicate with the public with the aim of generating a public opinion favorable to government foreign policy. The current information-intensive global environment poses a challenge to foreign ministries’ institutionalized mode of limited public communication along two dimensions: the rising importance of so-called public diplomacy, and the increasing need for public legitimization of foreign policy decisions.

Article

Societal factors such as public opinion, interest groups, and the media can influence foreign policy choices and behavior. To date, the public opinion and foreign policy literature has focused largely on data derived from the US, although this trend has begun to change in recent years. However, while much of the scholarly work suggests that public attitudes on foreign policy are both reasonable and structured, significant controversies exist over the public’s general influence on policy as well as the influence of elections on foreign policy. Meanwhile, the study of interest groups as a domestic source of foreign policy is dominated by two points of emphasis: ethnic groups acting as interest groups and the US case. These are most often considered together. This ethnic interest group literature stands largely apart from the literature on trade interest groups, which takes its inspiration from the economics literature. Finally, two aspects of media are specifically relevant to media and domestic sources of foreign policy. The first is the way the media serve as an arena of domestic political competition within democracies, and the second is the communicative role that media play in the formation of public opinions that are specific to and critical to foreign policy decision making.

Article

Terrorist violence appeals to and pivots on the creation and dissemination of fear. In that respect, it hinges on public perceptions and threat manufacturing to have policy impact. Scholars have long recognized that terrorist actors appeal to multiple audiences, including the public audience. By sowing fear, actors hope that the public will put pressure on the target regime to enact policy concessions to militants or that policymakers, fearing the erosion of public support, will bend to the terrorists’ demands. Recognizing this, it behooves scholars to delineate the mechanisms that shape perceptions and parse the different types of emotional and cognitive responses that terrorist violence arouses. Violence inculcates a range of public responses, most notably, anxiety, fear, anger, and perceptions of threat. These responses may vary with individual demographics, such as gender and age, but are also guided by the political environment in which individuals are embedded. Variegated emotive responses have important policy consequences as distinct emotions are associated with different policy demands. On the whole, psychological reactions to terrorism underlie the effectiveness of terrorism and have downstream social, political, and cultural ramifications.

Article

Ethnicity, nationalism, and migration are popular topics in many academic disciplines, but research on public opinion in these areas has suffered from a lack of good data, disciplinary fragmentation, and a dearth of studies that engage one another. This is evident in the case of public opinion survey research undertaken in the world’s hotspots of ethnic conflict. As a result, ethnic conflict scholars have had to rely on proxy measures or indirect studies to test “opinion” towards ethnicity and nationalism in the developing world. In the developed world, however, there is more to work with in terms of opinion measurements. A prominent example is the European Union’s “Eurobarometer” surveys, which gauge attachment to and identification with “Europe” and the individual nation. Research on national identity and ethnic conflict has often been the starting point for theories of public opinion regarding immigration. A common finding is that there is a weak connection (if any) between opinion and policy on the immigration issue. Several areas need to be addressed as far as research is concerned. For example, the picture of xenophobic hostility in rich countries must be understood in a context of general changes in word migration patterns, with some emerging economies also experiencing high levels of immigration, and concurrent anti-immigrant public opinion. Two shortcomings of the literature also deserve closer attention: a focus on developing-to-developed country migration; and a lack of analyses that combine push and pull factors, to measure their relative causal weight in terms of bilateral immigration flows.

Article

Benjamin Herborth and Oliver Kessler

The term “public” is predominantly used in International Relations (IR), often appearing as an attribute in collocations such as “public goods” or “public opinion.” The study of public spheres can be meaningfully situated within the scope of the emerging field of International Political Sociology (IPS). At the heart of the study of public spheres as an integral part of IPS is the challenge of theorizing the relations between public spheres and an emerging postnational political order. One perennial concern of IPS that can be addressed through the study of public spheres is the relation between empirical and normative inquiry. In addition, the study of public spheres constitutes an interdisciplinary arena that contributes to the process of opening up IR to the theoretical and methodological toolkit of adjacent intellectual fields. In this context, the study of social movements comes to mind, especially when it directly tackles processes of “contentious politics.” An analysis of the way in which the term “public” is used in IR can offer important insights into the social-theoretical presuppositions and implicit concepts of social and international order that go along with it. The study of public spheres is not confined to the study of a set of firmly delineated empirical phenomena, which may or may not be observed. It can also be used to elucidate the oft-neglected problem of how political authority is constituted in terms of both theoretical and empirical inquiry.

Article

Despite an absolute prohibition against torture, countries throughout the world continue to engage in ill-treatment and torture, often during times of national stress, when perceived others or out-group members are subjected to extreme interrogation. This is shown in numerous analyses and documentary evidence of the detention and interrogation policies adopted by the US government after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, including coercive interrogation techniques that many regard as torture, secret detentions, and extraordinary renditions to third countries known to practice torture. Faced with an uncertain and stressful situation, prison guards in Abu Ghraib turned to violence as a way of reassuring themselves that they were in control. With little oversight and a general mandate to secure actionable intelligence, aggression was encouraged and physical and psychological techniques refined in Afghanistan and at the detention center in Guantánamo became standard operating procedures. Though government leaders disavowed the use of torture and claimed that the United States used legally and morally acceptable coercive interrogation methods, US actions prompted a renewed philosophical and political debate whether there should be an absolute prohibition against torture or whether, under carefully specified circumstances, it is a lesser evil to torture a suspect for information to prevent a greater evil that menaces society. Justifications for the limited use of torture focus on its utility in preventing greater harm, especially under ticking bomb scenarios. Arguments for an absolute ban on torture question its effectiveness, citing anecdotal and experimental evidence that coercive methods often produce false confessions. Critics also cite strategic costs, including harm to the US reputation and its counterterrorism efforts, as well as damage to the global norm against torture. Public opinion in the United States and globally is ambivalent, though increasing representations of torture in popular culture have cultivated a torture myth, according to which torture is only used against hardened terrorists and in exceptional circumstances, when time is of the essence and torture is both necessary and effective in forcing terrorists to divulge valuable information that can save lives and avert future attacks. Ultimately, unrealistic depictions of torture and ambivalent signals from political leaders have created a climate of impunity and broad, though deeply divided support for harsh interrogation techniques.