U.S. Foreign Policy: Structure of Elite Opinion
This research revisits Carlson, Blum, and McKeown’s “The Structure of Attitudes Toward America’s World Role,” published in Operant Subjectivity (1995/1996), which investigated elite opinion regarding America’s world role in a post-Cold War environment. The collapse of the Cold War created an opportunity for the United States to reshape its foreign policy goals and strategies. Similarly, the events of 9/11 and the subsequent “war on terror” have reset American foreign policy. In the present study, foreign policy experts sorted statements from seven major issue areas, salient for contemporary U.S. foreign policy: the war on terrorism; climate change; human rights; global trade and finance; United Nations reform; defense spending; and arms control. A balanced factorial design was employed to construct the sample of statements to ensure comprehensiveness. The research aimed to reveal the structure of elite opinion regarding the nature and scope of U.S. foreign policy in the modern international environment. Q sorts were correlated and subjected to factor analysis, and the resultant factors were interpreted. Given the increasing fragmentation among U.S. elites concerning foreign policy preferences, Q methodology offers a very promising avenue to identify the scope of outlooks among various groups of elites engaged in the U.S. foreign policy discourse.