Benjamin Page is speaking on this paper:
Data from the 2006 CCGA national survey once again indicate that the American public is much more multilateralist than U.S. foreign policy officials. Large majorities of Americans favor several specific steps to strengthen the UN, support Security Council intervention for peacekeeping and human rights, and favor working more within the UN even if it constrains U.S. actions. Large majorities also favor the Kyoto agreement on global warming, the International Criminal Court, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the new inspection agreement on biological weapons. Large majorities favor multilateral uses of U.S. troops for peacekeeping and humanitarian purposes, but majorities oppose most major unilateral engagements.
Analysis of more than one thousand survey questions asked of both the public and foreign policy officials over a thirty year period by the CCGA (formerly CCFR) indicates that significant disagreements between officials and the public have been very frequent, occurring 73% of the time. Disagreements between majorities of officials and majorities of citizens have occurred 26% of the time. On Diplomatic issues, gaps have reached a peak in the George W. Bush years. Over the years, however, there have also been many disagreements over Defense issues (the public is more reluctant to use troops and more opposed to military aid and arms sales), and even more disagreement on international Economic issues: citizens are more worried about immigration and drugs, and much more concerned about the effects of trade on Americans’ jobs and wages.
Page concludes that this is more of a problem with the experts than with the public, concluding:
Most gaps between citizens and officials appear to have more to do with differing values and interests than with differing levels of information and expertise. To the extent that this is true and that Americans’ collective policy preferences are coherent and reflective of the best available information, there would seem to be a strong argument, based on democratic theory, that policy makers should pay more heed to the public’s wishes.
This all seems reasonable to me; I just have one question: how does this square with this well-known finding: “In 1995, the Program on International Policy Attitudes found that, while an overwhelming majority supported aid in principle, a majority wanted to cut it. However when asked to estimate how much of the budget was devoted to foreign aid, respondents vastly overestimated its size, and when asked what would be appropriate they proposed an amount far higher than the actual amount.”
P.S. I don’t have a sense of whether 55% support for the United Nations is a high or a low value. It would be interesting to see the correlations between support for the World Health Organization, the U.N., the IMF, multinational corporations, etc. Are the same 50% supporting all of these, or are the responses essentially random? It would also be interesting to see how these responses correlate with party ID, now and during the Clinton admininstration.
P.P.S. More discussion in the comments.