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Public Opinion and Foreign Policy



Goal: To provide a better understanding of the factors that help to shape the foreign policy of (democratic) states. The course will focus on the role of foreign policy and the foreign policy of the Netherlands. The course will also review the various views on the compatibility of democracy and foreign policy and the question of the desirability and possibility of increasing the democratic control of foreign policy

Content: From time to time intense debates take place over the compatibility between democracy as a form of decisionmaking and control of foreign policy. Is foreign policy a matter to be left in the hands of trusted experts and elites or would a more democratic foreign policy als serve the country better and promote international peace. The debate is influenced by, among other things, the question of whether there are fundamental differences (or not) between domestic and international issues.
In the study of these and related issues four different kinds of questions are involved and should be clearly distinguished: conceptual, methodological, empirical and normative issues.
First, the nature of foreign policy shall be explored. Then, we examine how foreign policy is made. Which factors (international and domestic) play a role?
Which domestic factors should be taken into account, including governmental factors, the role of civil servants and experts, the media and pressure groups? In particular, we shall focus on the role and significance of public opinion in its various manifestations.
Since war is the most powerful and consequential instrument in the pursuit of international goals, the course will concentrate further on the factors shaping public opinion on the use of international force. Does the public in comtemporary, modern societies still tolerate the costs of war in terms of human suffering and casualties?

Methods of Instruction

classroom discussions of the literature, presentations by students of summaries of books, research papers

Study Material

Everts, Ph.P. and Isernia, P. Public Opinion, Transatlantic Relations and the Use of Force: Theoretical Issues and Empirical Problems. Draft chapter 2 in ¬Mind the Gap. Public opinion and the use of force,(placed on Blackboard)

Everts, Philip, P. (2002), Democracy and Military Force, Basingstoke/London: Palgrave, 2002. ISBN 0-333-96859-X, ch. 1, 2, 3, 4, 9, 10. (also placed on Blackboard)

Isernia, P.. and Philip Everts (2006), European Public Opinion on Security Issues, European Security 15 (2006), 4, 451-469. (also on Blackboard).

Nacos, B.L., Shapiro, R.Y. and Isernia, P. (2000), Decisionmaking in a Glass House. Mass Media, Public Opinion and American and European Foreign Policy in the 21st Century, Lanham, Boulder, New York, Oxford: Rowman and Littlefield.

Miroclsv Nincic, Democracy and Foreign Policy. The Fallacy of Political Realism, New York, Columbia University Press, 1994, ISBN – 023107669X1994

Other literature to be announced


Grades will be given on the basis of class participation, presentations and research paper


Monday 31 October till 19 December, 15.00-17.00 hrs. in SA05 (except 31 Oct SA23) and
Thursday 3 November till 22 December, 13.00-15.00 hrs. in SA37