Reconsidering the Irrelevance of Foreign Voices for U.S. Public Opinion
42 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2011 Last revised: 26 Aug 2011
Date Written: 2011
We report the results of a survey experiment designed to gauge the influence of foreign elite voices on U.S. public opinion. Improving on previous work, our experiment exposed subjects to news coverage of proposed airstrikes on Iranian nuclear facilities, rather than simply providing them with sterilized information about a possible military action. We find that subjects who read a news story reporting opposition from the U.N. secretary-general to a U.S. plan to launch military strikes against Iran were significantly less likely to support action than were those who did not encounter international opposition in the news. In addition, partisanship mediated responsiveness, with Democrats more likely to respond to foreign voices than Republicans. Attitudes toward the United Nations had no effect, but predispositions toward multilateralism played a pronounced role in shaping opinion when foreign voices opposed U.S. military action. Multilateralism was unrelated to opinion about strikes against Iran when only domestic elites appeared in the news. Our results offer new evidence that international leaders and institutions can affect American mass opinion.
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