From “Star Wars” to the War on Terror American Public Opinion PolarizationonDefense Policy Donald M. Gooch
Political Polarization • Public Perception: Red vs. Blue • Academic Debate: Social Issues • Polarization Puzzle: Myth or Madness? • Gaps in the literature: • Non-social issues (i.e. economic, foreign policy, etc.) • Empirical definition of polarization • Determinants of polarization
Defense Policy Polarization • Define Polarization • Theoretically • Empirically • Examine the Polarization of Public Opinion on Defense Spending • Assess the relationship between Polarization on Defense Spending Public Opinion and trends in actual Defense Spending • Assess other factors that could cause polarization in the distribution of opinion on Defense Spending
Polarization: Concepts • Polarization is not divisiveness or “angry” politics. • Polarization is not an increase in “heated rhetoric.” • Polarization as a concept is the relative distribution of opinion in the American electorate along either single or multiple issue dimensions. • A “polarized” opinion distribution is the distribution of opinion relative to a “theoretical maximum” (DiMaggio, 1996). • Polarization as a process refers to the change in the distribution of opinion relative to this maximum or a prior distribution of opinion over some specified period of time.
Polarization: Measures • Variation (Standard Deviation) • Central Tendency (Means) • Bimodality (Kurtosis)
Foreign Policy Periods: The Cold War • The Cold War • “Let me share with you a vision of the future which offers hope. It is that we embark on a program to counter the awesome Soviet missile threat with measures that are defensive. Let us turn to the very strengths in technology that spawned our great industrial base and that have given us the quality of life we enjoy today…a shield that could protect us from nuclear missiles just as a roof protects a family from the rain“ • - Ronald Reagan, 1983
Foreign Policy Periods: The New World Order • The New World Order • Now, we can see a new world coming into view. A world in which there is the very real prospect of a new world order… A world where the United Nations, freed from cold war stalemate, is poised to fulfill the historic vision of its founders. A world in which freedom and respect for human rights find a home among all nations. • - George H. W. Bush, 1991 • "I know…that the United States cannot--indeed, we should not--be the world's policeman, and I know this is a time, with the Cold War over, that so many Americans are reluctant to commit military resources and our personnel beyond our shores." • -William J. Clinton, 1994
Foreign Policy Periods:The War on Terror • The War on Terror • States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. • - George W. Bush, 2002
Theoretical Models • Partisan Model. Public opinion polarization on issues is conditioned by the reactions of the electorate to the partisanship of those in control of government policy. In particular, partisans of the opposite party are more likely to polarize in response to the other party in control of the policy agenda. • Policy Model. Public opinion polarization is responsive to the actual implemented policy and changes in the levels or status of that policy. If, for example, defense spending increases, then the public polarizes or depolarizes relative to the change in the status quo and their preferred level of defense spending. • Events Model. Public opinion polarization is responsive to exogenous shocks to the system, relatively independent of the current policy makers or their policy prescriptions. These events independently affect the average issue positions of the public. For example, the September 11th attacks could produce a significantly higher preferred level of defense spending.
Variables • Actual Defense Spending, % GDP • Average Defense Spending Public Opinion • Bimodality of Defense Spending Public Opinion • Foreign Policy Periods
Polarization Hypotheses • Defense Spending Public Opinion tracks with actual defense spending. • Defense Spending Public Opinion is responsive to presidential administrations. • Defense Spending Public Opinion is determined by actual Foreign Policy events.
Models (Mean & Kurtosis) • Basic Models: • Defense Spending Public Opinion Polarization on Defense Spending • Defense Spending +Party Public Opinion Polarization on Defense Spending • Full Model • DS + P + Foreign Policy Period POP on DS • Full Model w/ Interactions: • DS + P + DS*P + FPP*P + FPP*DS POP on DS