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Public Opinion and the Test Ban Treaty

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Abstract

It has become a truism that the general public is not as concerned with foreign relations as much as it is with domestic issues.1 The cost of living, civil rights, law and order, taxes, labor relations, and education affect most citizens more directly and immediately than international relations. The public consequently exhibits greater fluctuation, less intensity, and less saliency in foreign policy issues which often seem remote from everyday life.2 While officials court citizens on both national and international issues, leaders tend to be more sensitive to constituency opinions on domestic questions than on foreign policy matters because voters judge the performance of officials on their domestic record except in times of an acute national crisis. James Rosenau suggests that the mass public usually becomes interested in foreign policy only in periods of acute peace-or-war crises, and not always then.3 Issues relating to war and peace do not fall into this analysis and are analogous to the issue of a dynamic economy or a recession.

Keywords

Public Opinion Foreign Policy Grade School Nuclear Testing American Foreign Policy 
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References

  1. 1.
    In particular, see James N. Rosenau, Public Opinion and Foreign Policy (New York: Random House, 1961 ), and Gabriel Almond, The American People and Foreign Policy ( New York: Frederick Prager, 1960 ).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    v. O. Key, Public Opinion and American Democracy ( New York, Knopf, 1961 ), pp. 158–59.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Rosenau, op. cit.,p. 36.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Ibid.,pp. 35–36 and Almond, op. cit.,p. 69.Google Scholar
  5. 9.
    Carl J. Hovland, “Reconciling Conflicting Results Derived from Experimental and Survey Studies of Attitude Change,” American Psychologist,XIV (January, 1959), pp. 8–17. Hovland finds that when the respondent is not highly committed to a position, he is more likely to react positively to the communications than when he is either committed to the position or sees the communicator negatively or ambiguously, pp. 12–13.Google Scholar
  6. 10.
    Elmo Roper and others have found that when the public does not have confidence in one of the mass media channels, such as the press or television, other media sources are considered trustworthy. Cf. The Public’s Attitudes toward Television and Other Media ( New York: Elmo Roper and Associates, 1962 ).Google Scholar
  7. 11.
    AIPO, July, 1963. For a discussion of the opportunities of presidents to influence public opinion see Doris A. Graber, Public Opinion, the President, and Foreign Policy, (New York: Holt, Rinehardt, and Winston, 1968 ).Google Scholar
  8. 12.
    For a discussion of tension levels in foreign policy and public opinion, see Jessie Bernard, “Parties and Issues in Conflict,” Journal of Conflict Resolution, I (1957), pp. 111–121.Google Scholar
  9. 13.
    David Krech and Richard Crutchfield, “Theory and Problems of Social Psychology,” in Wilbur Schram, The Process and Effects of Mass Communications ( Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1961 ), p. 133.Google Scholar
  10. 14.
    See Bernard Berelson and Gary Steiner, Human Behavior (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World, 1964), pp. 574–84 and Carolyn Sherif, M. Sherif, and Roger Nebergal, Attitude and Attitude Change (Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders, 1965), passim.Google Scholar
  11. 26.
    New York Times,September 2, 1961, p. 1 and other September issues detailing the administration’s position.Google Scholar
  12. 27.
    AIPO, November, 1961.Google Scholar
  13. 28.
    New York Times,November 15, 1961, p. 3.Google Scholar
  14. 26.
    Ibid.,March 3, 1962, p. 2. 30 AIPO, March, 1962.Google Scholar
  15. 37.
    ALPO, December, 1961.Google Scholar
  16. 32.
    AIPO, April, 1955 and December, 1961.Google Scholar
  17. 33.
    Cf. Chapter IV on the mass media, particularly pp. 10–12.Google Scholar
  18. 63.
    The SRC survey indicated 13.6 per cent of the men and 12.5 per cent of the women opposed the treaty while 21.5 per cent of the men and 47.3 per cent of the women either had no opinion or had not heard about the treaty.Google Scholar
  19. 64.
    Cf. Robert E. Lane and David Sears, Public Opinion (Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice Hall, 1964 ), p. 59.Google Scholar

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© Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, Netherlands 1970

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