Measuring public opinion is an undertaking requiring precise methods and a clear vision, and even then results can be inconclusive. Yet, understanding how and why a democratic public thinks the way it does, and to what extent those thoughts influence policymakers, is essential to a democracy. This paper will use data from the American National Election Survey to discuss the relationship between level of support for the war on terror and level of perceived effectiveness. Values, political sophistication, knowledge, and self-efficacy can each be used to predict the level of support an individual has for the war on terror, and therefore if they perceive the threat of terrorism to be reduced or increased since the start of the war. The role of U.S. public opinion in the formation of foreign policy has been increasing in importance since the Vietnam War era; however the literature on what shapes public opinion toward foreign policy remains divided. Public opinion is complex and dynamic, and there is not one magic variable that will perfectly predict an individual’s views on foreign policy. As such, any consideration of public opinion must be sensitive to nuances and resist the temptation for oversimplification. In keeping with a nuanced understanding of public opinion, equal significance will be placed on variables that do not have a significant influence as on those that do, and there is a general understanding that public opinion exists on a continuum.
O'Connor, Julianne, "Factors that Shape U.S. Public Opinion on Foreign Policy" (2014). Student Scholar Symposium Abstracts and Posters. 16.
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