Home Communication Public Opinion, Transatlantic Relations and the Use of Force
How the book is organized
Against this backdrop, this book digs deeper into the nature and structure of the transatlantic relationship as well as exploring the role that opinion on the use of military force plays in that relationship. Above, we already hinted at the existence of different views on - and even a gap in - the level of mass public opinion on the nature of the transatlantic relationship. Allegedly, this relationship is at present characterized by a wide gap that separates the United States from the European countries. Proponents of each of the existing views on this gap, its existence, its origins and nature will tend to look for - and sometimes also find - public opinion research results that confirm their own differing hypotheses. We shall explore them in detail in this book.
The attention devoted in this connection to attitudes toward the use of force is justified not only by the objective relevance of the issue per se for any debate on democracy, accountability and foreign policy, but also by the conviction, stressed by various commentators that this issue constitutes the major and perhaps decisive source of differences in attitudes among Europeans and Americans. But is it true that such a gap indeed exists among Europeans and Americans? The core issue of whether, where and why American and European publics differ on questions of war and peace - if they do at all - has not yet been adequately addressed.
In this book we will look in particular at the question of how Europeans and Americans see the use of force, both in general and in specific circumstances and cases.
In the next chapter of the book we review what we know about the structure of beliefs of Europeans and Americans on issues related to the use of force. We argue that, to explain difference and similarities in public reactions to decisions to use force in specific circumstances, we need to look at the set of determinants as a 'funnel of causality' that moves from socio-demographic and dispositional factors to situationally-driven considerations. We conclude Chapter 2 arguing that the best way to address the issue of support for the use of force is adopting a combinatorial perspective in which ideological predispositions and policy posture combined with situational variables shape the way people react to questions about the necessity of using force either in the abstract or in concrete situations.
The rest of the book dissects this set of determinants. Chapters 3 and 4 look at the dispositional and ideological variables respectively. In Chapter 3, we articulate and discuss the four key elements underpinning the transatlantic relationship, that help to structure public opinion on Transatlantic issues: threats, sense of community, institutional support (what we call Atlanticism) and general orientation toward the use of force, examining their evolution over time and across the Atlantic. Chapter 4 examines the structure of public opinion on both sides of the Atlantic adding a further dimension, ideological predispositions (the left-right cleavage), and studying how it combines with Atlanticism and the general orientation toward the use of force in the US as well as in Europe.
Public opinion, however, is not only a constant, determined by ideological and dispositional factors. It can shift under the impact of, for instance, lack of success or rising costs. In Chapter 5, we look at the question of how the evolution of time has an impact on the support for particular wars. We look in particular at four recent historical cases: Kosovo (1999), the 'war on terror' (2001-), Afghanistan (2004-) and Iraq (2002-2005). In Chapter 6, we bring the situational factors in. We do so on the basis of a content analysis of a very large number of surveys held in a number of recent conflicts and in a variety of countries which allows us to explore the effects of question wordings about the situation under which the use of force takes place or is contemplated.
After exploring the different elements of our puzzle, in this chapter we also put all of them together, focusing on how situational, predispositional and socio-demographic variables affect support for the use of force. Finally, in the Conclusions (Chapter 7), we summarize the results of the preceding chapters and explore, in a more speculative fashion, the impact of these differences and similarities at the level of mass opinion on the future of the transatlantic relationship.
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