Public opinion on foreign policy
1. Contrary to what usually happened in the past, nations are living in an era where the citizen can exercise, to a certain extent, an increased pressure on the formal exercise of power, especially in certain areas, and even in the exercise of foreign policy.
2. Governments often tailor its foreign policy based on the interests of the State, preferably with the support of public opinion, although in some instances this is not done. However, today it is increasingly difficult to conduct a foreign policy that is not based on certain popular consensus. The support of enlightened public opinion greatly strengthens the external action and the diplomatic skills of the State concerned.
3. Public sentiments could overrule a government’s policy, weakening the competitive position of the State, or compel the government to make certain concessions or, by contrast, show a stiff but inappropriate resistance. At certain times, public opinion is a stimulus, in other cases, it can force a retreat. Sometimes it serves to unify but it also can divide.
4. Regarding foreign policy, and other matters within the competence of the modern State, the government must be able to provide a public reason – legal, moral, economic or otherwise – contrary to happened in times of so-called secret diplomacy, for any position it takes on international issues.
5. Citizens often do not fully understand the complex arguments surrounding major strategies and the international rules involved. But all of this can be made clear through a public relations strategy of the Foreign Ministry.
6. Formerly the conduct of those who wielded political power was often dictated by personal considerations. Today, by contrast, it is generally accompanied by a continued focus on communication with the population. The people, now more than ever, want simple, straightforward and accurate information which will encourage them to render support to aspects of the State’s foreign policy.
7. Due to effective public action, the print media, radio, television and especially the electronic media have become instruments of diplomatic action (in the context of the implementation of the foreign policy) and dialogue among peoples. These media outlets are virtually in the hands of governments who can take advantage of them to carry out a policy of presenting information to the general public on a regular basis. A persistent spread of information always results in influencing public opinion.
8. Recognising that knowledge is one of the elements of power, the first duty of those responsible for external actions of States is to have efficient mechanisms, both to learn effectively and to inform on specific issues.
© by Odeen Ishmael