Building public support for the use of force has become a primary preoccupation for presidents in the post-Vietnam era. Rather than let popular opposition to military actions fester, they pay special attention to public opinion and they attempt to orchestrate these actions in a way that enhances mass support. These strategies and tactics are often aggressive in nature, involving prime-time television appearances, high-profile speaking tours, and a concerted effort by the president's foreign policy advisors to echo the messages delivered by the commander-in-chief. The effect of these actions has been the subject of past research. Unlike other studies of the effects of presidential speeches (Ragsdale, 1984, 1987; Brace and Hinckley, 1992), this one focuses on changes in substantive policy opinion, as opposed to changes in presidential approval. A before/after survey design that incorporates a control group that was not exposed to Ronald Reagan's October 27, 1983 speech on the use of U.S. troops in Lebanon and Grenada reveals that public support for each of these policies increased following the speech. It also reveals that support increased more for Grenada than for Lebanon. The result is consistent with findings by Jentleson (1992) that support is more likely to follow the use of troops to repel a state's violation of another's sovereignty than the use of troops to resolve a political conflict internal to a single sovereign state.
Political Behavior – Springer Journals
Published: Oct 7, 2004
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