The Calculation of Costs: An Innocent Public

in In Time of War

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print October 2009 | ISBN: 9780226043586
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226043463 | DOI:
The Calculation of Costs: An Innocent Public

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Should the opinions of citizens in a democracy matter in decisions of war and peace? The answer to this critical question depends on the stock we place in the ability of the public to come to meaningful decisions regarding the conduct of foreign affairs. There is a growing consensus that citizens, on the whole, hold foreign policy preferences that are sensible and that they adjust their preferences in response to world events that affect American interests. Hurwitz and Peffley (1987) have shown that an individual's foreign policy attitudes are structured by core values and abstract beliefs regarding appropriate general governmental strategies. This chapter focuses on more basic predispositions: ties to political and social groupings in American society. It first describes the different theoretical positions on the determinants of support for war and presents evidence from World War II and the Iraq War to question event-driven theories of public support for war. It then looks at two factors that shape public opinion on war: the influence of competition among political elites and the power of group attachments.

Keywords: public opinion; foreign policy; World War II; Iraq War; public support; competition; political elites; group attachments; world events; social groupings

Chapter.  9788 words. 

Subjects: US Politics

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