SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Public opinion in the lead-up to the 2003 Iraq War presents a puzzle. Despite the fact that domestic political elites publicly voiced little opposition to the invasion, large numbers of Americans remained opposed to military action throughout the pre-war period, in contrast to the predictions of existing theory. We argue that some rank-and-file Democrats and independents expressed opposition because of the widely reported antiwar positions staked out by foreign, not domestic, elites. Merging a large-scale content analysis of news coverage with public opinion surveys from August 2002 through March 2003, we show that Democrats and independents—especially those with high levels of political awareness—responded to dissenting arguments articulated in the mass media by foreign officials. Our results, which constitute the first empirical demonstration of foreign elite communication effects on U.S. public opinion, show that scholars must account for the role played by non-U.S. officials in prominent foreign policy debates.