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Ranch State and CitizenSpace: Digital Democracy and Web Strategies for the United States and the United Kingdom
Unformatted Document Text:  10 public opinion on foreign policy – the uncertainty of polling, both methodologically and analytically, becomes more pronounced and (depending on the bias of the pollster), suspect. Factoring out the complicit nature of the media in this instance, let us consider briefly the claims made by Page and Shapiro (quoted in Alterman) on a half-century of public opinion data. "Concerning a number of foreign policy matters over the last five or six decades, presidents, government officials and others have attempted to mislead the public often (as best we can tell) deliberately and often with considerable success" (Alterman, p 165). Again, a dismal picture for the influence of public opinion on the foreign policy, if we are to assume that such a process should be democratic. Page and Shapiro's work, while indicating the public attitudes towards foreign policy has been stable (a statement which by itself could be an artifact of Cold War socialization), also reveals that "approximately one third of the time, U.S. foreign policy fails to reflect what the public says it wants" (Alterman, pg. 166). If there is consensus among elites that mass public opinion is "ignorant and confused", how can one argue for a foreign policy more sensitive to public opinion? What is more likely is alternative means for engagement with the foreign policy establishment – one that is enabled by developments in ICT technology, but not dependent on government ICT policy – such as transnational advocacy networks. This subject will be addressed in a later section of this paper. Nation-State Context for Website Analysis Given the structural barriers embedded in the historical relationship of the foreign policy elites and the general public of the United States – what can we expect about the deployment of internet technologies from the government level towards impacting digital democracy? While there has been movement in the public and elite understanding of the role of the media in connecting citizens and government through access to up-to-the moment information (Deibert, 1997; 1998; Castells, 2000), there is less understanding of how the government plays a part in

Authors: Hayden, Craig.
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10
public opinion on foreign policy – the uncertainty of polling, both methodologically and
analytically, becomes more pronounced and (depending on the bias of the pollster), suspect.
Factoring out the complicit nature of the media in this instance, let us consider briefly the claims
made by Page and Shapiro (quoted in Alterman) on a half-century of public opinion data.
"Concerning a number of foreign policy matters over the last five or six decades, presidents,
government officials and others have attempted to mislead the public often (as best we can tell)
deliberately and often with considerable success" (Alterman, p 165).
Again, a dismal picture for the influence of public opinion on the foreign policy, if we are
to assume that such a process should be democratic. Page and Shapiro's work, while indicating
the public attitudes towards foreign policy has been stable (a statement which by itself could be
an artifact of Cold War socialization), also reveals that "approximately one third of the time, U.S.
foreign policy fails to reflect what the public says it wants" (Alterman, pg. 166). If there is
consensus among elites that mass public opinion is "ignorant and confused", how can one argue
for a foreign policy more sensitive to public opinion?
What is more likely is alternative means for engagement with the foreign policy
establishment – one that is enabled by developments in ICT technology, but not dependent on
government ICT policy – such as transnational advocacy networks. This subject will be addressed
in a later section of this paper.
Nation-State Context for Website Analysis
Given the structural barriers embedded in the historical relationship of the foreign policy
elites and the general public of the United States – what can we expect about the deployment of
internet technologies from the government level towards impacting digital democracy? While
there has been movement in the public and elite understanding of the role of the media in
connecting citizens and government through access to up-to-the moment information (Deibert,
1997; 1998; Castells, 2000), there is less understanding of how the government plays a part in


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