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Title: The media, public opinion and British foreign policy
Author: Akor, Ambrose
ISNI:       0000 0004 2719 2006
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2011
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Are foreign policy officials responsive to policy preferences of the mass media and the public in making their decisions? That question has dogged scholars for decades but there has been little agreement among them on what is the true nature of mass media- and public opinion-foreign policy link. In terms of mass media impact, there are two media theories which dominate the debate. First, the CNN Effect theory claims that, by their nature, the mass media have the power to compel policy officials to adopt their policy preferences. Second, the Manufacturing Consent theory counters with the claim that foreign policy is too serious a matter for officials to yield to mass media demands. Scholars are similarly divided on the impact of public opinion on foreign policy. Lacking in almost all the known studies is an appreciation that foreign policy emerges out of a process involving policy stages. These policy stages have different characteristics. In addition to the nature of those stages in themselves, relationships between policy actors - including the mass media, the public and officials - are different in those stages. Officials tend to react differently at each stage of policy when pressured by the mass media and public opinion. Therefore, in this study, I propose that we will have a better understanding of mass media and public opinion influence on foreign policy officials if we study official responsiveness or sensitivity at the stages of the foreign policy process - policy initiation, policy implementation and policy review. I further argue that official responsiveness to mass media and public opinion depends largely on the stage of policy. For this research, I carried out a case study of Britain's war with Iraq in 2003 to test my theory. Principally, I tried to answer the question: Does foreign policy officials' responsiveness to mass media and public opinion depend on the stage of policy? I found that official response to the mass media and public opinion was not as precise as suggested by the dominant camps in the debate. More importantly, Official response to mass media and public opinion varied in the stages of policy. Specifically, I found that British officials were most responsive to mass media and public opinion at the policy initiation stage, very unresponsive at the implementation stage and even more unresponsive at the policy review stage. As a result of the variations in official responsiveness at the stages, I argue that there is a need to re-evaluate the way we study mass media- and public opinion-foreign policy link. To better understand the impact of the mass media and public opinion on foreign policy, I conclude that we need to examine how policy actors interact at different stages of the foreign policy process.
Supervisor: Robinson, Piers; Parmar, Inderjeet Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Public opinion ; mass media ; British Foreign policy ; responsiveness ; CNN Effect ; Manufacturing Consent ; Stages of Policy ; Policy initiation ; policy implementation ; policy review and Iraq