Sobel, senior research associate in Harvard University's program in psychiatry and the law, is co-editor of this fine work in the embryonic field of analyzing the impact of public opinion on foreign policy. The anthology explores the effects of public opinion on six countries that participated in the Iraq war that began in 2003: the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Poland, the Netherlands, and Japan; and six that did not: Germany, France, Mexico, India, Turkey, and Canada.
The authors' general conclusions are useful. There seems to be little evidence of a "rally around the flag" effect in the run-up to and during the height of the conflict, nor did casualty rates make an apparent impact on public opinion. Governments faced negligible electoral consequences when public opposition was ignored. Not surprisingly, the four countries in Iraq for the longest period had the highest initial public support for war.
The sections on Japan, U.K., and Poland are sound, and the breadth of analysis in the Germany chapter masterful. The opening chapter on the United States by Ole Holste is rife with anti-Bush polemics that make it appear out of place. The piece on Canada misses the special importance of Quebec's antiwar sentiment at a time when secessionist feelings were strong.
Public opinion is often affected by how the media frame events when far removed from the public's eyes and ears. Measuring public opinion through media-commissioned polls is also affected by the headline-seeking questions for which they are willing to pay.
By depending on media-sponsored polling, the authors fall short of portraying the true complexity of public opinion. Any study of public opinion and foreign policy ought to incorporate quantitative content-analysis of news along with polling data and foreign policy events, and thus, the authors' approach to data is the book's main weakness. Combining these three sets of findings and analysis may be the future of the field, and these authors have the talent to contribute to it.