Home Communication Public Opinion, Transatlantic Relations and the Use of Force
Some methodological conclusions
The survey results presented and analyzed throughout this book are in many ways surprising. Particularly, they appear to contradict the conventional wisdom that Americans and Europeans look at the world in quite different ways. This view seemed to find support in the acrimonious political debates and arguments exchanged on both sides of the Atlantic in recent years, but this was misleading. In fact, our analysis shows quite clearly and consistently, across different measures and statistical techniques, that Americans and Europeans reason in remarkably similar ways about issues related to peace and war. The same factors are at work on both sides of the Atlantic.
On the methodologies used, the following merits attention. In the preceding chapters it was shown that going beyond looking solely at aggregate survey results can reveal additional insights into structural similarities and differences in public attitudes on both sides of the Atlantic. We focused on public attitudes toward the potential the use of force given the key role that this issue appears to play in recent transatlantic frictions. On this and other key issues, it is important to understand the building blocks that underlie public attitudes in the US and Europe. In this book we first looked at the role of predispositional variables (such as threat perceptions, sense of we-feelings, Atlanticism and general attitudes on the use of force) in Chapter 3. A better understanding of the basic attitudes on the use of force and other forms of power, as well as the tensions between the demands of peace and of justice, enabled us to build a viable typology of attitudes. This typology helped to explain how attitudes on international affairs cluster into recognizable patterns and are translated into political schools of thought.
In Chapter 4 we took the analysis one step further and looked at ideological variables. We looked first into the impact of the Left-Right divide and we concluded that the main source of transatlantic conflict lies at the intersection of two different variables: Atlanticism and ideological predispositions. The Left-Right ideological cleavage is relevant but it plays out differently in Europe and in the United States, as will be explained below in more detail.
We concluded that the factors discussed in Chapters 3 and 4, while indispensable for an understanding of why people think the way they do, they are not sufficient to know and explain why some people support the use of military force while others do not. Particularly, we noted also that support for the use of force is not a constant but varies with the circumstances under which it is envisaged or actually used.
Therefore, following the model that was developed in Chapter 2, we also looked at the impact of the relevant situational and contextual variables in Chapters 5 and 6. Of these, the role of the evolution of time in explaining support, or the lack thereof, was examined in particular in Chapter 5. These outcomes received independent confirmation from the multivariate analysis of various scenarios in Chapter 6. As was concluded in that chapter on the basis of the cases examined: 'It is quite clear from the results that background conditions, situational and predispositional variables together significantly improve our ability to predict support for the use of force, under different conditions.' This is true for both the US and the European countries.
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