US Public Opinion and Foreign Policy
While many believe that public opinion can and does matter to policy makers, others contend that public opinion complicates or is of relative importance to policy making.
If the issue is of great importance to the public and there is a common consensus as to how the problem may be resolved between a majority of the public and policy makers, policy makers are likely to be facilitated in their foreign policy aims. The most recent and significant example of this is the US incursion into Iraq in 2003. When an issue is of lesser importance, resulting in a less educated public, the policy making process can be complicated. Needless to say foreign policy making is the most difficult when it concerns issues of great importance and little common consensus.
To ensure political success, presidents and other policy makers must use an understanding of public attitudes to structure their foreign policies for presentation to their constituents. Public opinion is not as malleable as some believe it to be. We only have to point to various examples of American politicians attempting to coerce public opinion on issues that are unpopular with the American public and their lack of success in doing so.
One of the major underpinnings of representative democracy is the belief that government policy, both foreign and domestic, is controlled by public opinion and the power of the vot ...