Media, Public Opinion, and Foreign Policy

2668 Words11 Pages
The matter of public opinion including its influence on policy making has been debated by different scholars throughout the world. There are differences in the way realists including liberals view public opinion. For realists public opinion is unstable, lack consistency also that it does not influence foreign policy making, in contrast realists view public opinion as stable, consistent thus it influences foreign affairs including policy making. Therefore the government or policy makers can take into account the opinions of the public or ignore it when making important decisions. This essay will examine with reasons why agree with liberals perspective on the role of the media and public opinion in foreign policy by focusing on the case of the Vietnam War.
2. Defining key concepts
Foreign policy can be defined as “state’s international goals and its strategies to achieve those goals” Sparknotes editors (2014: Internet). Foreign policy refers to a planned course of action followed by an actor or decision maker on international level or to interact with other states to achieve certain objectives including goals. According to Sarmah “public opinion refers to the opinions of people in general” (2004:113). This definition suggests that public opinion is opinions of people in general based on certain issues. Thus in politics public opinion would mean the collective opinions of citizens about certain government’s policy or actions
3. Dominant models in foreign policy analysis
Throughout the 20th century two perspective or models conquered academic debates namely the pluralist including the elite models. The pluralists’ model assume that power is isolated throughout the society so that no interests prevail. The public including the media can raise their opinions also debate certain issues without any favour. The government cannot silence the media or the public thus the opinions of these two bodies are sometimes taken into account when the government makes crucial decisions or takes action about certain policies or events. Thus the media including the public are independent from any political influence hence they can exert pressure on government. As stated by Robinson “mainstream media are sufficiently independent from political power to allow them to present a diverse range of political perspectives” cited by Cox and Stokes (2012:162).
The second model is the elite model which is in contradiction with the pluralist model in a sense that they view power as concentrated only in the hands of the few powerful individuals in society, moreover that those groups with power include political officials including think tanks thus those who are not included abide by the rules set out by the elites.
Open Document