Technical ReportPDF Available

United in Goals, Divided on Means: Opinion Leaders Survey Results and Partisan Breakdowns from the 2014 Chicago Council Survey of American Opinion on US Foreign Policy

  • Langer Research Associates
  • Chicago Council on Global Affairs

Abstract and Figures

Partisan disputes among US policymakers seem to be growing by the week, whether on negotiations with Iran, immigration reform, or climate change. To what extent are these divisions unique to foreign policy leaders? How much do they also reflect polarization among the American public? To examine these questions, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs revived its tradition of conducting tandem surveys of the US public and foreign policy opinion leaders in its May–July 2014 survey. Across party lines, the results reveal that the US public and leaders largely agree on the general direction of US foreign policy. But entrenched partisan mindsets and polarization present significant challenges to addressing today’s major foreign policy issues. The results underscore several common foreign policy goals across party lines that are bound to get lost once the divisive 2016 campaign begins. Policymakers should set a higher bar and advance shared priorities while working to bridge their differences.
Content may be subject to copyright.
A preview of the PDF is not available
... Recent studies have also found that the American public sees relatively little difference in the foreign policy positions of the two parties (Kertzer et al. Forthcoming), and that most foreign policy elites across the two parties share broadly similar internationalist outlooks (Smeltz et al. 2015;Hicks et al. 2018;Busby et al. 2020). In addition, many foreign policy debates are marked by both intra-and inter-party divisions (Prather 2016;Rathbun 2016). ...
Full-text available
To what extent are U.S. elected officials polarized on foreign policy? And how do patterns of polarization and bipartisanship differ across policy areas? Using an original data set of nearly 3000 important congressional votes since the end of the Cold War, we find that severe polarization remains the exception rather than the norm in U.S. foreign policy debates and that the U.S. Congress is still less polarized on international than on domestic issues. We also show that foreign policy bipartisanship regularly takes several forms, including bipartisan agreement in support of the president’s policies, cross-partisan coalitions, and even bipartisan opposition to the president’s policies. Collectively, our findings provide a more nuanced portrait of the politics of U.S. foreign policy than many recent accounts, point to persistent differences in the political alignments associated with different policy areas, and highlight the importance of conceiving of polarization and bipartisanship as more than binary categories.
Scholars of public opinion on military intervention agree that survey respondents make judgments from limited information. Yet researchers still question whether ordinary Americans reflect elite attitudes or instead reach their own “pretty prudent” conclusions from the stated principal policy objective (PPO). This article adjudicates the debate while incorporating lessons from the study of bounded rationality. Evidence comes from an original data set of aggregate US public opinion, covering 1,080 nationally representative survey items about launching operations, across thirty-five countries, during 1981 to 2016. Tests show that PPO matters: pursuing “internal policy change” is less popular than restraining international aggression. However, language reflecting White House cues and one prominent cognitive shortcut (the “availability heuristic”) statistically and substantively outperforms PPO at predicting intervention support. The results indicate that when ordinary Americans are polled about using force against salient foes (Saddam Hussein, al-Qaeda, Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), elements of bounded rationality can overtake the prudence expressed toward less vivid problems.
Hamilton’s chapter reviews four American historical-ideational traditions that have significantly influenced the conduct of US foreign policy and influenced American attitudes towards Europe and the world. Avoiding simplistic liberal-conservative or internationalist-isolationist explanations, he considers the deeper American domestic roots and traditions that inform and guide US foreign policy. The chapter also surveys American public and elite attitudes towards Europe. While each of these movements approaches Europe from very different perspectives, US public and leadership opinion has tended to coalesce around a core set of American interests and values that will continue to inform US approaches to Europe in the twenty-first century.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any references for this publication.