Daniel W. Drezner

The realist tradition in American public opinion

Remember my query about journalists’ attitudes towards U.S. foreign policy from a few weeks back? It was a very small part of a paper I’ve written entitled, “The Realist Tradition in American Public Opinion“, which I’ll be presenting at Yale tomorrow. Here’s the abstract: For more than half a century, realist scholars of international relations ...

Remember my query about journalists' attitudes towards U.S. foreign policy from a few weeks back? It was a very small part of a paper I've written entitled, "The Realist Tradition in American Public Opinion", which I'll be presenting at Yale tomorrow. Here's the abstract: For more than half a century, realist scholars of international relations have maintained that their theory is inimical to the American public. For a variety of reasons ? national history, American exceptionalism ? realists assert that the U.S. government pursues realist policies in spite of public opinion. This paper takes a closer look at the anti-realist assumption by examining survey data and the empirical literature on the mass public?s attitudes towards foreign policy priorities and worldviews, the use of force, and foreign economic policy. The results suggest that, far from disliking realism, Americans might be most comfortable with the logic of realpolitik. The persistence of the anti-realist assumption might be due to an ironic fact: American elites are more predisposed towards liberal internationalism than the rest of the American public. One of the many germs from which this paper grew was from this blog post from two years ago.

Remember my query about journalists’ attitudes towards U.S. foreign policy from a few weeks back? It was a very small part of a paper I’ve written entitled, “The Realist Tradition in American Public Opinion“, which I’ll be presenting at Yale tomorrow. Here’s the abstract:

For more than half a century, realist scholars of international relations have maintained that their theory is inimical to the American public. For a variety of reasons ? national history, American exceptionalism ? realists assert that the U.S. government pursues realist policies in spite of public opinion. This paper takes a closer look at the anti-realist assumption by examining survey data and the empirical literature on the mass public?s attitudes towards foreign policy priorities and worldviews, the use of force, and foreign economic policy. The results suggest that, far from disliking realism, Americans might be most comfortable with the logic of realpolitik. The persistence of the anti-realist assumption might be due to an ironic fact: American elites are more predisposed towards liberal internationalism than the rest of the American public.

One of the many germs from which this paper grew was from this blog post from two years ago.

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at Tufts University’s Fletcher School. He blogged regularly for Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2014. Twitter: @dandrezner

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