The impact of public opinion on Theodore Roosevelt's foreign policy
Thompson, John Mortimer
University of Cambridge
Faculty of History
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Thompson, J. M. (2010). The impact of public opinion on Theodore Roosevelt's foreign policy (Doctoral thesis). https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.11687
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Theodore Roosevelt is considered by many historians to have been one of the most skilled practitioners of foreign policy in American history. But while he continues to draw � considerable interest from scholars, one facet of his diplomacy continues to be poorly understood: the impact of public opinion. There was a discernable evolution in his relationship with public opinion over the course of his tenure, even if many core ideas and practices were already present when he took office. The President was often discouraged by the state of public opinion. In his view, Congress was often a poor partner in conducting foreign policy; sensationalist newspapers had considerable influence; the ideas and policy preferences of many Eastern elites were usually ill-conceived; and the broader public's ignorance and apathy about international affairs were troublesome. But these concerns were balanced by other factors. He had a better working relationship with the Senate than he was willing to admit. He had more success in gaining favourable newspaper coverage than all but . a few Presidents. And he believed strongly in the American system of governance and had faith in the common sense of most of his countiymen. Given these multifaceted ideas about the nature of American opinion, it is not surprising that Roosevelt placed considerable importance upon shaping and educating it. This was both a means to facilitating his foreign policy goals and a way to build and maintain political supp01t. In fact, the two were closely linked. While he enjoyed considerable success in shaping opinion, he also suffered notable setbacks. In the final analysis, public opinion played a key role in Roosevelt's conduct of foreign policy, though its degree of influence in his decision-making process varied according to circumstances. Three main variables seemed to have shaped his behaviour: the impo11ance of a policy to Roosevelt, his perception about the intensity and sources of opposition to it and the level of suppo11 among the broader public.
This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.11687