Americans have a strong preference for multilateral foreign policies over unilateral foreign policies. But do Americans know their own preferences? Data from a national survey show wide misperceptions of public opinion on foreign policy. While Americans strongly prefer multilateral policies, they overestimate public support for unilateral policies. For example, while only 23 percent of respondents agreed that the more important lesson of September 11 is that the United States should work alone to fight terrorism rather than work with other countries, respondents estimated that almost 50 percent of Americans endorsed this view. Moreover, misperceptions of public opinion were related to subsequent judgments of specific policies. For example, respondents who incorrectly perceived the unilateral view as the majority view were 1.84 times more likely to support a presidential decision to invade Iraq without the approval of the United Nations (UN) Security Council than respondents who correctly perceived the unilateral view as the minority view. Misperceptions of public opinion were also associated with the belief that the current foreign policy reflects the opinions of the American people. This belief in the legitimacy of the foreign policy was as strong a predictor of support for specific unilateral policies as respondents' attitudes.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Sociology and Political Science
- Social Sciences(all)
- History and Philosophy of Science