Crisis or Consensus? Public Opinion and National Security in Western Europe

  • Richard C. Eichenberg


When the NATO Alliance celebrated its thirtieth anniversary in 1979, few would have predicted that the very existence of the Alliance would soon be in doubt. Most commentaries stressed the theme of continuity in the Alliance, a continuity that rested on a firm basis of common interest in security, economic, and political affairs. In addition, the mutual interests of the Western nations were reinforced by a stable East-West power structure that rendered alternative security arrangements infeasible, unpopular or both.1


Public Opinion National Security Nuclear Weapon Security Policy Military Force 
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  1. 1.
    On the theme of continuity, see Stanley Hoffmann, “NATO at Thirty: Variations on Old Themes”, International Security, 4/2 (Summer 1979) pp. 88–107; andCrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  3. 2.
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  5. 3.
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  7. 5.
    In the voluminous literature on public opinion in the 1980s, I found only three studies that provide this type of detailed “three-way” breakdown. All deal with West Germany: Stephen Szabo, “West Germany: Generations and Changing Security Perspectives”, in Stephen Szabo (ed.), The Successor Generation: International Perspectives of Postwar Europeans (London: Butterworth, 1983);Google Scholar
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    The most comprehensive statement of Ronald Inglehart’s theory is The Silent Revolution: Changing Values and Political Styles Among Western Publics (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1977); see also his later study, “Postmaterialism in an Environment of Insecurity”, American Political Science Review, 75/4 (December 1981) pp. 880–900.Google Scholar
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    A number of these studies is reviewed in Richard C. Eichenberg, “Strategy and Consensus: Public Support for Military Policy in Industrial Democracies”, in Edward Kolodziej and Patrick Morgan (eds), National Security and Arms Control: A Reference Guide to Theory and Practice (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1989).Google Scholar
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  29. 30.
    The full responses to this question are presented in Chapter 4; they are drawn from Office of Research, USIA, West European Public Opinion on Key Security Issues, 1981–82, Report R-10–82 (Washington, D.C., June 1982).Google Scholar
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    The German poll on flexible response is reproduced in Richard C. Eichenberg, “Public Opinion and National Security in Europe and the United States”, in Linda Brady and Joyce Kaufmann (eds), NATO in the 1980s (New York: Praeger, 1985) p. 240. On the relative salience of security issues, see Flynn and Rattinger, The Public and Atlantic Defense, pp. 366–9.Google Scholar
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  39. 48.
    The literature on generational differences in American security opinions is reviewed in Robert Wells, “The Vietnam War and Generational Difference in Foreign Policy Attitudes”, in Margaret Karns (ed.) Persistent Patterns and Emerging Structures (New York: Praeger, 1986) pp. 99–125.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Richard C. Eichenberg 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard C. Eichenberg
    • 1
  1. 1.Tufts UniversityUSA

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