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The Influence of Foreign Voices on U.S. Public Opinion

Authors


  • Danny Hayes is Assistant Professor of Government, School of Public Affairs, American University, 230 Ward Circle Building, Washington, DC 20016 (dhayes@american.edu). Matt Guardino is Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Political Science, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University, 100 Eggers Hall, Syracuse, NY 13244 (mpguardi@maxwell.syr.edu).

  • Earlier versions of this article were presented at the 2009 meetings of the American Political Science Association and the Midwest Political Science Association. We thank Scott Althaus, Matt Cleary, Hanneke Derksen, Shana Gadarian, Jason Gainous, Jon Hanson, Seth Jolly, Jon Ladd, Mike Miller, Laurie Rhodebeck, Mark Rupert, Jeff Stonecash, Brian Taylor, Joe Ucinski, Chris Way, several anonymous reviewers, and seminar participants at Syracuse University, American University, Cornell University, and the University of Louisville for helpful feedback. The Campbell Public Affairs Institute at Syracuse University provided funding for the project. The survey data used in this article are available from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press (http://people-press.org/dataarchive/). The media data and supplementary technical appendix are available at http://nw08.american.edu/~dhayes/index.htm.

Abstract

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.

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