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American Public Attitudes Toward Foreign Policy

Michael A. Maggiotto, Eugene R. Wittkopf
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/2600514 601-631 First published online: 1 December 1981

Abstract

This article explores the manner in which the American public structures its attitudes toward foreign policy in the post-Vietnam era. There is general agreement among analysts that the unidimensional internationalist-isolationist continuum was a casualty of Vietnam. But there is disagreement over what kind of attitudinal structure has supplanted it. Basically, the disagreement revolves around the number of dimensions necessary to characterize attitudinal structure adequately. In exploring the conceptual foundations underlying mass attitudes toward foreign policy, this article validates a fourfold typology derived from the joint distribution of two orthogonal attitudinal factors, cooperative and militant internationalism. It then examines the political and socioeconomic correlates of mass attitudes toward traditional foreign policy issues. Finally, by controlling for contextual variables, it attempts to reincorporate attitudes toward nontraditional foreign policy issues into the bidimensional factor space, largely unsuccessfully. We speculate in conclusion that the inconsistencies that often seem to accompany foreign policy objectives and behaviors concerning nontraditional issues may not owe to any sinister origins, but may simply be an elite manifestation of what we uncovered in the mass sample.

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