Hostname: page-component-77c89778f8-gvh9x Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-07-18T17:42:56.215Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Who Influences U.S. Foreign Policy?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 April 2005

University of Minnesota
Northwestern University


Research in international relations has identified a variety of actors who appear to influence U.S. foreign policy, including experts and “epistemic communities,” organized interests (especially business and labor), and ordinary citizens or “public opinion.” This research, however, has often focused on a single factor at a time, rather than systematically testing the relative importance of alternative possible influences. Using extensive survey data gathered over three decades we conduct a comparative test, attempting to account for the expressed foreign policy preferences of policy makers by means of the preferences of the general public and those of several distinct sets of elites. The results of cross-sectional and time-lagged analyses suggest that U.S. foreign policy is most heavily and consistently influenced by internationally oriented business leaders, followed by experts (who, however, may themselves be influenced by business). Labor appears to have significant but smaller impacts. The general public seems to have considerably less effect, except under particular conditions. These results generally hold over several different analytical models (including two-observation time series) and different clusters of issues (economic, military, and diplomatic), with some variations across different institutional settings (the U.S. House, Senate, and executive branch).

© 2005 by the American Political Science Association

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Adler Emanuel, and Peter Haas. 1992. “Conclusion: Epistemic Communities, World Order, and the Creation of a Reflective Research Program.” International Organization 46 (Winter): 36790.Google Scholar
Almond Gabriel. 1950. The American People and Foreign Policy. New York: Harcourt, Brace.
Art Robert. 1973. “Bureaucratic Politics and American Foreign Policy: A Critique.” Policy Sciences 4 (December): 46790.Google Scholar
Bartels Larry. 1991. “Constituency Opinion and Congressional Policy Making: The Reagan Defense Buildup.” American Political Science Review 85 (June): 45774.Google Scholar
Bartels Larry M. 2002. “Economic Inequality and Political Representation.” Paper presented at the 2002 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Boston.
Bates Robert, and Da-Hsiang Lien. 1985. “A Note on Taxation, Development, and Representative Government.” Politics and Society 14 (March): 5370.Google Scholar
Bennett W. Lance. 1990. “Toward a Theory of Press-State Relations in the United States.” Journal of Communications 40 (Spring): 10325.Google Scholar
Bennett W. Lance. 1994. “The Media and the Foreign Policy Process.” In The New Politics of American Foreign Policy, ed. D. Deese. New York: St. Martin's Press, 16888.
Bouton Marshall M., and Benjamin I. Page, eds. 2002. Worldviews 2002: American Public Opinion and Foreign Policy. Chicago: Chicago Council on Foreign Relations.
Burke Edmund. 1949. “Speech to the Electors of Bristol.” In Burke's Politics; Selected Writings and Speeches, ed. R. Hoffmann and P. Levack. New York: Alfred Knopf.
Chatterjee Samprit, and Bertram Price. 1991. Regression Analysis by Example. 2nd ed. New York: John Wiley.
Dahl Robert A. 1961. Who Governs? Democracy and Power in an American City. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Dahl Robert A. 1989. Democracy and Its Critics. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Downs Anthony. 1957. An Economic Theory of Democracy. New York: Harper and Row.
Doyle Michael. 1983. “Kant, Liberal Legacies, and Foreign Affairs.” Philosophy and Public Affairs 12 (3): 20535; 12 (4): 323–53.Google Scholar
Druckman James N., Lawrence R. Jacobs, and Eric Ostermeier. 2004. “Candidate Strategies to Prime Issues and Image.” Journal of Politics. Forthcoming.Google Scholar
Elman Mariam Fendius. 1997. “Introduction: The Need for a Qualitative Test of the Democratic Peace Theory.” In Paths to Peace: Is Democracy the Answer?, ed. M. F. Elman. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Entman Robert M. 2004. Projections of Power: Framing News, Public Opinion, and U.S. Foreign Policy. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.
Erikson Robert S., Michael B. Mackuen, and James A. Stimson. 2002. The Macro Polity. New York. Cambridge University Press.
Esping-Andersen Gøsta. 1990. The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Freeman John. 1983. “Granger Causality and the Time Series Analysis of Political Relationships.” American Journal of Political Science 27 (May): 32758.Google Scholar
Frieden Jeffry A. 1991. “Invested Interests: The Politics of National Economic Policies in a World of Global Finance.” International Organization 45 (Autumn): 42551.Google Scholar
Galenson Walter. 1986. “The Historical Role of American Trade Unionism.” In Unions in Transition: Entering the Second Century, ed. S. M. Lipset. San Francisco: Institute for Contemporary Studies.
Gottschalk Marie. 2001. In the Shadow of the Welfare State. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Gourevitch Peter. 1986. Politics in Hard Times. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Grossman Gene M., and Elhanan Helpman. 1994. “Protection for Sale.” American Economic Review 84 (September): 83350.Google Scholar
Grossman Gene M., and Elhanan Helpman. 1995. “Trade Wars and Trade Talks.” Journal of Political Economy 103 (August): 675708.Google Scholar
Haas Peter. 1992. “Introduction: Epistemic Communities and International Policy Coordination.” International Organization 46 (Winter): 135.Google Scholar
Hall Peter. 1989. The Political Power of Economic Ideas: Keynesianism across Nations. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Hallin Daniel C. 1986. The “Uncensored War”: The Media and Vietnam. New York: Oxford University Press.
Hartley Thomas, and Bruce Russett. 1992. “Public Opinion and the Common Defense: Who Governs Military Spending in the United States?American Political Science Review 86 (December): 90515.Google Scholar
Herman Edward, and Noam Chomsky. 1988. Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media. New York: Pantheon Books.
Holsti Oli. 1996. Public Opinion and American Foreign Policy. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Holsti Oli, and James N. Rosenau. 1984. American Leadership in World Affairs: Vietnam and the Breakdown of Consensus. London: Allen and Unwin.
Jacobs Lawrence. 1993. The Health of Nations: Public Opinion and the Making of Health Policy in the U.S. and Britain. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Jacobs Lawrence. 1992. “Institutions and Culture: Health Policy and Public Opinion in the U.S. and Britain.” World Politics 44 (January): 179209.Google Scholar
Jacobs Lawrence, and Melanie Burns. 2004. “The Second Face of the Public Presidency: Presidential Polling and the Shift from Policy to Personality Polling.” Presidential Studies Quarterly 34 (September): 53656.Google Scholar
Jacobs Lawrence, and Benjamin Page. 2003. “The Disconnect of American Foreign Policy Makers from Public Opinion: International Relations Theory and Practice.” Paper presented at the 2003 annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association.
Jacobs Lawrence, and Robert Y. Shapiro. 1994. “Issues, Candidate Image and Priming: The Use of Private Polls in Kennedy's 1960 Presidential Campaign.” American Political Science Review 88 (September): 52740.Google Scholar
Jacobs Lawrence, and Robert Y. Shapiro. 2000. Politicians Don't Pander: Political Manipulation and the Loss of Democratic Responsiveness. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Kennan George. 1951. American Diplomacy, 1900–1950. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Keohane Robert. 1984. After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Keohane Robert. 1989. International Institutions and State Power. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
Keohane Robert, and Helen Milner, eds. 1996. Internationalization and Domestic Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Krasner Stephen. 1972. “Are Bureaucracies Important? (or Allison Wonderland).” Foreign Policy 7 (Summer): 15979.Google Scholar
Krasner Stephen. 1978. In Defense of the National Interest: Raw Materials, Investments, and U.S. Foreign Policy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Lippmann Walter. 1955. Essays in the Public Philosophy. Boston: Little, Brown.
Lipset Seymour Martin. 1986. Unions in Transition: Entering the Second Century. San Francisco: Institute for Contemporary Studies.
Milner Helen. 1997. Interests, Institutions, and Information: Domestic Politics and International Relations. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Monroe Alan D. 1979. “Consistency between Public Preferences and National Policy Decisions.” American Politics Quarterly 7 (January): 319.Google Scholar
Monroe Alan D. 1998. “American Public Opinion and Public Policy, 1980–1993.” Public Opinion Quarterly 62 (Spring): 628.Google Scholar
Moravcsik Andy. 1997. “Taking Preferences Seriously: A Liberal Theory of International Politics.” International Organization 51 (Autumn): 51353.Google Scholar
Morgenthau Hans. 1973. Politics among Nations. New York: Knopf.
Mueller John E. 1973. War, Presidents and Public Opinion. New York: Wiley.
Nacos Brigette, Robert Shapiro, and Pierangelo Isernia. 2000. Decision Making in a Glass House: Mass Media, Public Opinion, and American and European Foreign Policy in the 21st Century. New York: Rowan and Littlefield.
Nelkin Dorothy. 1979. “Scientific Knowledge, Public Policy, and Democracy.” Knowledge, Creation, Diffusion, Utilization 1 (September): 10622.Google Scholar
Nincic Miroslav. 1990. “U.S. Soviet Policy and the Electoral Connection.” World Politics 42: 37096.Google Scholar
Ostrom Charles W., Jr., and Robin E. Marra. 1986. “U.S. Defense Spending and the Soviet Estimate.” American Political Science Review 80 (September): 81941.Google Scholar
Owen John. 1994. “How Liberalism Produces Democratic Peace.” International Security 19 (Fall): 87125.Google Scholar
Page Benjamin. 2002. “The Semi-Sovereign Public.” In Navigating Public Opinion: Polls, Policy, and the Future of American Democracy, ed. Jeff Manza, Fay Lomax Cook, and Benjamin Page. New York: Oxford University Press.
Page Benjamin I., and Robert Y. Shapiro. 1983. “Effects of Public Opinion on Policy.” American Political Science Review 77 (March): 17590.Google Scholar
Page Benjamin I., and Robert Y. Shapiro. 1992. The Rational Public: Fifty Years of Trends in Americans' Policy Preferences. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Peterson Susan. 1995. “How Democracies Differ: Public Opinion, State Structure, and the Lessons of the Fashoda Crisis.” Security Studies 5 (Autumn): 337.Google Scholar
Putnam Robert. 1988. “Diplomacy and Domestic Politics: The Logic of Two-Level Games.” International Organization 42 (Summer): 42760.Google Scholar
Rielly John. 1975. American Public Opinion and U.S. Foreign Policy, 1975. Chicago: Chicago Council on Foreign Relations. (Corresponding studies published in 1979, 1983, 1987, 1991, 1995, and 1999..
Rogowski Ronald. 1989. Commerce and Coalitions. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Rose Gideon. 1998. “Neoclassical Realism and Theories of Foreign Policy.” World Politics 51 (October): 14472.Google Scholar
Russett Bruce. 1990. Controlling the Sword: The Democratic Governance of National Security. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Russett Bruce. 1996. “Why Democratic Peace?” In Debating the Democratic Peace, ed. M. Brown, S. Lynn-Jones, and S. Miller. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 82115.
Russett Bruce, and John Oneal. 2001. Triangulating Peace: Democracy, Interdependence, and International Organizations. New York: W. W. Norton.
Sartori Giovanni. 1987. The Theory of Democracy Revisited. Chatham, NJ: Chatham House.
Schattschneider E. E. 1960. The Semi-Sovereign People: A Realist's View of Democracy in America. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
Schumpeter Joseph. 1950. Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy. New York: Harper.
Sigal Leon V. 1973. Reporters and Officials: The Organization and Politics of Newsmaking. Lexington, MA: D. C. Heath.
Snyder Jack. 1991. Myths of Empire: Domestic Politics and International Ambition. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Sobel Richard. 2001. The Impact of Public Opinion on U.S. Foreign Policy since Vietnam. Ithaca, New York: Oxford University Press.
Sobel Richard. (ed.). 1993. Public Opinion in U.S. Foreign Policy: The Controversy Over Contra Aid. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
Trubowitz Peter. 1998. Defining the National Interest: Conflict and Change in American Foreign Policy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Walt Stephen M. 1987. The Origins of Alliances. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Waltz Kenneth. 1959. Man, the State, and War: A Theoretical Analysis. New York: Columbia University Press.
Waltz Kenneth. 1979. Theory of International Politics. Reading, MA: Addison–Wesley.
Wildavsky Aaron. 1975. Budgeting: A Comparative Theory of Budgetary Processes. Boston: Little, Brown.
Wildavsky Aaron. 1991. “The Two Presidencies.” In The Two Presidencies: A Quarter Century Assessment, ed. S. Shull. Chicago: Nelson–Hall, 1125.
Winters Jeffrey A. 1996. Power in Motion. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Wittkopf E. 1990. Faces of Internationalism: Public Opinion and American Foreign Policy. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Submit a response


No Comments have been published for this article.