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One small step for functionalism: UN participation and Congressional attitude change


As an explanation of organizational growth at the international level, functionalism postulates that people who become personally involved in the activities of international agencies will develop attitudes more favorable to international cooperation. Analysis of speeches by United States Congressmen and Senators before and after serving as delegates to the UN General Assembly indicates that significant attitudinal change may occur. At the cognitive level, Congressmen tend to pay more attention to the UN than before. The majority also experience positive change in affect toward the UN. In addition, the data provide evidence of convergence toward a mean value as participants initially holding the more extreme views (positive or negative) generally express more moderate opinions as a result of the UN experience. The fact that such a leveling of expectations occurs at a significantly higher level of favorability gives modest support to the functionalist thesis.

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1 The classic exposition of functionalism is Mitrany David, A Working Peace System: An Argument for the Functional Development of International Organization, 1st ed (London: Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1943). More recently this work and other Mitrany writings have been republished with an introduction by Hans J. Morgenthau (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1966). For specific references to attitude change, see the Quadrangle edition, pp. 63, 79, where Mitrany discusses the development of “common habits and interests,” and the breeding of “a new conscience”; and Mitrany, “International Cooperation in Action,” International Associations, Vol. 11 (09 1959): 647, which refers to the growth of “a collectivity of functional loyalties.” See also Mitrany, “The Functional Approach in Historical Perspective,” International Affairs, Vol. 48 (07 1971): 532–43; and Mitrany, “A Political Theory for the New Society,” in Groom A. J. R. and Taylor Paul, ed., Functionalism: Theory and Practice in International Relations (London: University of London Press, 1975), pp. 2537. A very careful analysis of Mitrany is found in Sewell James Patrick, Functionalism and World Politics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1966), esp. pp. 2872. See also Haas Ernst B., Beyond the Nation-State (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1964), esp. pp. 350; and Green Andrew W., “Mitrany Reread with the Help of Haas and Sewell,” Journal of Common Market Studies, Vol. 8 (09 1969): 5069. Unpublished sources are Engle Harold E., A Critical Study of the Functional Approach to International Organization, unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Public Law and Government, Columbia University, 1957; and Martin Curtis W., The History and Theory of the Functional Approach to International Organization, unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Government, Harvard University, 1950.

2 Wolf, “International Organization and Attitude Change: A Re-Examination of the Functionalist Approach,” International Organization, Vol. 27 (Summer 1973): 350.

3 There is a prior definitional question of what is meant by “participation” in international organizations. In this study, and most of the literature cited, participation means attending one or more meetings of an international organization with the object of influencing the organization's deliberations or decision-making processes in some way. Attendance at formal meetings is ordinarily supplemented by more informal contact with participants from other states, secretariat officials, and possibly representatives of the press and private organizations. Participants vary widely in extent of involvement and seriousness of purpose. Some parliamentary participants in international assemblies may spend only a day or two in meetings, while others who take seriously an assignment as a UN General Assembly delegate may spend the better part of three months immersed in UN affairs. Some civil servants in European Community member states may hold positions requiring virtually continuous involvement with Community affairs.

4 See Alger Chadwick F., “United Nations Participation as a Learning Experience,” Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 27 (Fall 1963): 411–26; and Kerr Henry H. Jr, “Changing Attitudes Through International Participation: European Parliamentarians and Integration,” International Organization, Vol. 27 (Winter 1973): 4583.

5 Matecki B. E., Establishment of the International Finance Corporation and United States Policy: A Case Study in International Organization (New York: Praeger, 1957), pp. 159–60.

6 The Political Dynamics of European Economic Integration (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1963), pp. 286–87. See also Lindberg Leon N., “The Role of the European Parliament in an Emerging European Community,” in Frank Elke, ed., Lawmakers in a Changing World (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1966), p. 124; “We have some evidence suggesting that what takes place in the Strasbourg conference hall, the lobbies, the caucus and committee rooms, and the political group offices has contributed to the development of new norms of conflict resolution, to a sense of legitimacy in the institutions (especially the Commissions), to a concept of community ‘general interest,’ and to a sense of mutual identification.”

7 Lindsay Kenneth, ed., European Assemblies: The Experimental Period, 1949–1959 (New York: Praeger, 1960), p. 94. And at p. 80: “There can be no doubt that the experience of working in an international assembly has indirectly contributed greatly to the knowledge and outlook of many members of parliament. This has already had far-reaching consequences. It has made international cooperation more real and national parliaments more alert to international affairs.”

8 Quoted in Hovey J. Allan Jr, The Super-Parliaments: Inter-Parliamentary Consultation and Atlantic Cooperation (New York: Praeger, 1966), p. 81. Fens continues: “This is a revolutionary development and has received far too little attention. We have only to recall that the same treaty would never have been ratified unless there had been in each of the parliaments a similar body of opinion prepared to support the adventure of a European Economic Community. Hitherto, it had not existed. That it does today is a tribute to the importance of the European assemblies.”

9 Alger, p. 425.

10 Ibid., p. 422. The quotation is from Ithiel de Sola Pool, Keller Suzanne, and Bauer Raymond A., “The Influence of Foreign Travel on Political Attitudes of American Businessmen,” Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 20 (Spring 1956): 169. See also Alger's subsequent discussion of “Personal Contact in Intergovernmental Organizations,” in Kelman Herbert C., ed., International Behavior (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1966), pp. 523–47. Much of Alger's data for this article is drawn from the study of UN participation previously cited and from Gary Best, Diplomacy in the United Nations, unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Northwestern University, 1960.

11 Jacobson Harold K., “Deriving Data from Delegates to International Assemblies,” International Organization, Vol. 21 (Summer 1967): 592613. The response rate was very low-28 returns from 179 questionnaires (16 percent) which makes conclusions from the data highly tentative. Jacobson also surveyed delegates to the International Labor Conference and World Health Assembly in 1966, with an even lower response rate.

12 “Sixty-three percent of those delegates who had never attended an ITU meeting previously checked that ITU and its activities were ‘very important’ to their state, and 37 percent checked ‘important.’ Only 25 percent of the group that had previously attended an ITU meeting checked ‘very important’ while 67 percent checked ‘important.’” Ibid., p. 160. The total ITU sample included just 28 respondents, 12 with previous experience and 16 without, which made controls for other respondent characteristics unfeasible.

13 Bonham G. Matthew, “Participation in Regional Parliamentary Assemblies: Effects on Attitudes of Scandinavian Parliamentarians,” Journal of Common Market Studies, Vol. 8 (06 1970): 325.

14 A total of 84 interviews are reported-18 from the Consultative Assembly group, 21 from the Nordic Council, and 45 from the control group.

15 Ibid., p. 334.

16 Kerr.

17 Ibid., p. 61.

18 Ibid., p. 76.

19 “The Effect of Interparliamentary Meetings on the Foreign Policy Attitudes of United States Congressmen.”

Three additional studies of attitude change based on personal interviews of European national civil servants who had served as seconded members of the EC bureaucracy, as participants in EC working groups, or as staff members of member state permanent delegations to the EC, produce mixed results. See Scheinman Lawrence and Feld Werner, “The European Economic Community and National Civil Servants of Member States,” International Organization, Vol. 26, No. 1 (Winter 1972): 121–35 (This finds some evidence of a more “European” orientation); Smith Keith, “The European Economic Community and National Civil Servants of the Member States-A Comment,” International Organization, Vol. 27, No. 4 (Autumn 1973): 563–68 (Dutch respondents had become more realistic, not more “Europeanized”); and Pendergast William R., “Roles and Attitudes of French and Italian Delegates to the European Community,” International Organization, Vol. 30, No. 4 (Autumn 1976); 669–77 (Respondents showed “almost total absence of increased support for integration,” but nevertheless “shared a commitment to succeed in the task of common policy elaboration,” and “favor the expansion of Community competence.”) See also Feld Werner and Wildgen John K., “Electoral Ambitions and European Integration,” International Organization, Vol. 29, No. 2 (Spring 1975); 447–68.

20 Kerr makes a very good argument that more information may lead to more interest. Ibid., pp. 67–68.

21 There are obviously many variables that may affect a person's attitudinal response to a new experience. Warwick, in his discussion of the “socialization approach” to the study of transnational participation, suggests three major sources of variation: “1) the prearrival characteristics of the participant, 2) the character of his transnational experience, and 3) postreturn conditions related to his transnational experience.” Warwick Donald P., “Transnational Participation and International Peace,” International Organization, Vol. 25 (Summer 1971): 307. Kelman emphasizes the importance of the character of the experience. He observes, “it is the joint occurrence of friendly behavior toward the other and genuinely new information about him that makes favorable attitude change possible.” Providing new information is necessary but not sufficient. “To change hostile or neutral attitudes into friendly ones,” the new information must be provided “in the context of a positive interaction between the people giving and receiving the information.” Kelman Herbert C., “Changing Attitudes Through International Activities,” Journal of Social Issues, Vol. 28 (1962): 85, 86.

22 The hypothesis of attitude change through personal experience with the attitudinal object finds ample basis in the social-psychological literature as well as in functionalist theory. The distinctions between cognitive and affective dimensions of attitudes are in fact drawn from social-psychological works. See, e.g., Scott William A., “Psychological and Social Correlates of International Images,” in Kelman Herbert C. ed., International Behavior (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1965), pp. 7277. Such writers frequently distinguish a third “behavior” or “action” component of attitudes. See Triandis Harry C., Attitude and Attitude Change (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1971), p. 61. Social-psychological theories of attitude change through role-playing are also relevant here since delegates to the General Assembly find themselves playing roles that, at very least, imply acceptance of the legitimacy of UN processes and require frequent justification of national positions in terms of UN norms. See Newcomb Theodore M., Turner Ralph H., and Converse Philip E., Social Psychology: The Study of Human Interaction (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1965), pp. 108–09.

Cognitive dissonance theory, utilized effectively by Karns in his study of “The Effect of Interparliamentary Meetings on the Foreign Policy Attitudes of United States Congressmen,” in the present issue of this journal, provides a further rationale for attitude change. New experiences may bring perceptions of the UN at variance with previous cognitions, creating inner tensions or pressures that are relieved through attitude change as the individual strives to satisfy his functional need for attitudinal consistency. See Karns, pp. 504ff, and Festinger Leon, A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1957); Kiesler Charles A., Collins Barry E., and Miller Norman, A ttitude Change: A Critical Analysis of Theoretical Approaches (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1969); and Insko Chester A., Theories of Attitude Change (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1967).

23 Each member of the United Nations is entitled to send five delegates and five alternates to an Assembly session, together with an unlimited number of experts, advisers, and other supporting personnel.

24 At two per year, the total number should have been 44. However, in the interest of comparability, a decision was made to include each member of Congress only once during the time period, and then only if he had no prior experience as a UN delegate. Because of this rule, John Sherman Cooper was not included for his 1968 assignment because he had served in 1949, and Mike Mansfield was included as a House member in 1951 but not when he served as a Senator in 1958. Senator John Pastore served as a third Congressional appointee in 1955. Senators Sparkman (1950), Pastore (1955), and Allott (1962) were appointed as UN delegates although they were not members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

25 Cost considerations precluded coding of all materials by more than one person, although five different coders were used at different times during the project. One additional reliability check was made, based on the assigned numerical values. Two coders each did all of the speeches for one prolific Senator. They differed on some of the individual scores, but the differences almost completely cancelled each other out. For one coder, the average was 275; for the other it was 276. Initial coding was on a five-point scale, subsequently collapsed to three. See appendix for a detailed statement of the coding rules.

26 Rokeach Milton, Beliefs, Attitudes and Values (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Inc., 1968) questions “whether it is ever possible to obtain a behavioral measure of a given attitudetoward-object that is uncontaminated by interaction with attitude toward situation.” P. 138.

27 Fortunately, the direction of the distortion imposed by extrinsic events is not likely to be consistent over the twenty-year period from which speeches are drawn. Hence, an unwarranted inference of change in the predicted direction during one year may be counterbalanced by a similarly grounded inference of change in the opposite direction for another year. This should leave room for the hypothesis to apply, that is, for changes in the predicted direction to outnumber all other cases. Furthermore, the vagaries of extrinsic events need not greatly distort the average scores for “before” and “after” speeches because, with exceptions of the earliest and latest years, each year is at once a “before” year for some Congressmen and an “after” year for others.

28 A difference of means test (t-test) for correlated data, one-tailed for comparing the years immediately before and after participation, and two-tailed for the first and third years before, was applied to this data. The before-and-after differences were significant at the.01 level (t=2.41, N=43); differences for the two “before” years were not significant at any acceptable level of confidence. This strongly suggests that the before-and-after differences are unlikely to be attributable to chance. The generalizability of this finding is, of course, limited by the fact that these Congressmen are scarcely a random sample of the larger population of past and potential future participants in international organizations.

29 The total number of speeches was ascertained by counting items listed in the index to the Record under the heading of “Remarks” by each Congressman. For uniformity and simplicity (and probably at the expense of accuracy) items having multiple page references were nevertheless tallied as a single speech.

30 Using chi square, the difference between the before-and-after years was significant at the .01 level.

31 The differences between the two time periods as reflected in Table 3 are significant at.01 (chi square). Using absolute numbers of speeches rather than percentages, the figures are much the same for the two sets of paired years. For the two years prior to the UN experience, 18 Congressmen delivered more UN speeches in the subsequent year, 17 gave fewer, and 8 delivered the same number. For the years immediately before and after, 27 showed an increase, 7 remained the same, and 9 recorded a smaller number of speeches.

An interesting sidelight emerges when the number of United Nations speeches is compared with the number of separate paragraphs in which a reference to the UN is made. As indicated in the text above, the mean number of speeches for the years immediately before and after UN participation increased from 4.1 to 6.0. The mean number of paragraph references, however, increased from 17.6 to 31.4. The increase in speeches is of the magnitude of 50 percent, but the increase in paragraph references is nearly 100 percent. Thus speeches about the UN not only were more numerous during the subsequent year; they also were longer.

In addition to speeches, a count was also made of other materials inserted in the Congressional Record at the request of the members of Congress. As followers of the Record know, this embraces a wide variety of materials-letters, editorials, speeches delivered outside the halls of Congress, reports by Congressmen to their constituents, excerpts from books and magazines, and what-have-you. Such insertions in the Record were not very sensitive to changes in Congressional attitudes. The average number of items for the year before was 6.7 per Congressman, while the average for the year after was 8.0. Change is somewhat more marked when paragraph references to the UN rather than whole items are used. The average numbers for the years before and after were 45 and 64, respectively.

32 The one Congressman who disagreed with the statement was interviewed in July 1974 and offered a very practical explanation. At the time of his appointment as a UN delegate he had been chairman of the House subcommittee on International Organizations and Movements. He subsequently relinquished that post and therefore had less occasion to follow UN issues. Three others interviewed on an “opportunity sample” basis were unanimous and emphatic that the experience had increased their awareness of the United Nations and UN-related matters.

33 The probability that this before-and-after difference represents only chance variation is less than. 0 1, based on a chi square calculation. By contrast, differences between the two years preceding the UN experience are negligible.

34 This observation is based on a one-tailed t-test for correlated data. A two-tailed test was applied to the two prior years, where no change-or only random change-was anticipated. The mean score for the third year before UN participation was 237. The two-tailed probability for the two prior years was.82, suggesting only chance variation. In each case, mean differences were computed from the F-U averages of Congressmen who spoke about the UN in both of the paired years, not the average of all who spoke in eitheryear. Thus, N=27 for the two prior years (t=0.23), and N=33 (t=2.39) for the before-and-after years. To repeat a cautionary note sounded above, such tests of significance may give some basis for estimating the probability that differences are attributable to chance, but the generalizability of these conclusions to other groups of participants in international organization will be affected by the representativenessor non-representativeness-of this sample of participants.

35 Analysis of non-speech items showed a similar trend, but such material was not as sensitive to shifts in Congressional attitudes as were speeches. For the before-and-after years, 17 Congressmen changed in the predicted direction (more favorable), 11 showed a less favorable average, and 3 remained the same.

36 Data from the survey previously cited supports this conclusion. Of ten former delegates who responded to the mailed questionnaire, six “agreed” and two “strongly agreed” with the statement, “I gained a more favorable opinion of the UN as a result of my experience as a UN delegate.” Two were “undecided” and no one disagreed. One of the “undecided” Congressmen had shown a rather dramatic shift in favor of the UN as measured by the content analysis data. A personal interview with him revealed that the UN experience had worked an equally dramatic change in his conduct. He now was “fighting the budget battle” for the UN, participating in a program to acquaint members of Congress with the organization, and generally more engaged in consideration of matters affecting the UN.

37 Specifically, the proportions experiencing favorable change in affect are Democrats 58 percent, Republicans 64 percent; high ADA ratings 56 percent, low ADA ratings 75 percent; urban constituencies 50 percent, less urban constituencies 62 percent. Other indicators show a similar negative relationship between prior year F-U scores and positive change in affect: Congressmen with advanced academic degrees 54 percent, those without such degrees 78 percent; well-educated constituencies 43 percent, less well educated 67 percent; and high proportion of foreign stock 56 percent, lower proportion 67 percent.

There is another relationship of interest. Delegates who share the incumbent President's political party affiliation are more likely (71 percent) to experience favorable change in attitude than those of the opposite party (50 percent). This variation, if attributable to other than chance factors, may reflect differences in the nature of the experience. It probably is not related to differences in prior attitudes, because the average F-U score for both groups is an identical 229.

38 Taking F-U scores for the prior year as one variable and, as a second variable, the difference between F-U scores for prior and subsequent years (prior year scores minus subsequent year scores), a Kendall tau (beta) coefficient of.50 for the two variables is obtained. This is a rather strong relationship and further confirms the proposition that low F-U scores for prior years are likely to be associated with favorable change in affect toward the United Nations in a subsequent year.

39 Karns, note 25; and Runkel Philip J. and McGrath Joseph E., Research on Human Behavior: A Systematic Guide to Method (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1972), pp. 3940.

40 Karns, p. 508, and note. 25.

41 Bauer, Pool, and Keller, p. 173.

42 Karns, p. 505.

43 Karns, p. 506.

44 Logically a strong convergence effect would serve to mute the impact of domestic legislative reference groups. The convergence hypothesis suggests that persons at either extreme of the favorable-unfavorable continuum will become less extreme through UN participation. Conversely, reference group theory supports the inference that persons at the extremes (e.g., liberal Democrats at the positive pole, conservative Republicans at the negative) are likely to stay there. Any substantial shift toward the center by persons at either pole would create dissonance with signals generated by their respective reference groups.

Professor of Law at the J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University. Research for this paper was supported by United States Government National Endowment for the Humanities Grant RO-8812–76–400, the University of Minnesota Office of International Programs, and the J. Reuben Clark Law School. The research assistance of Barbara Chisholm, Ngyuen Cao Dam, Mitchel Joelson, Timothy King, Nathan Kirk, B. Carol Pierce, and Lynn Schumann is gratefully acknowledged. Special thanks are due Richard S. Beal and Stanley A. Taylor for helpful comments on an earlier draft of the paper.

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International Organization
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