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Public Attitudes Toward Israel: A Study of the Attentive and Issue Publics

Jon Krosnick, Shibley Telhami
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/2600805 535-554 First published online: 1 December 1995


Scholars of international relations have often suggested that American public opinion may have been an important influence on U.S. foreign policy toward Israel in recent decades. Yet empirical explorations of this possibility have generally adopted only the majoritarian perspective regarding public influence and have ignored two plausible alternatives: the guardianship and pluralist perspectives. In this article, we explore the potential utility of these latter views by examining whether or not public attitudes on relations with Israel among members of the attentive public and the Arab-Israeli issue public were different from the attitudes of non-members in 1988–1990. Using data from two representative sample surveys, we found that attentive public and issue public members were less likely to take neutral stances on issues related to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Furthermore, issue public members were more supportive of Israel and its government's official policies than were nonmembers, but no such difference appeared in comparisons of attentive public members to non-members. Thus, future investigations of the interface between public opinion and foreign policy on this and other issues may benefit from paying close attention to issue public members as distinct from the general public.

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