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War Stories

The Causes and Consequences of Public Views of War

Matthew A. Baum

Publication Year: 2009

How does the American public formulate its opinions about U.S. foreign policy and military engagement abroad? War Stories argues that the media systematically distort the information the public vitally needs to determine whether to support such initiatives, for reasons having more to do with journalists' professional interests than the merits of the policies, and that this has significant consequences for national security. Matthew Baum and Tim Groeling develop a "strategic bias" theory that explains the foreign-policy communication process as a three-way interaction among the press, political elites, and the public, each of which has distinct interests, biases, and incentives.

Do media representations affect public support for the president and faithfully reflect events in times of diplomatic crisis and war? How do new media--especially Internet news and more partisan outlets--shape public opinion, and how will they alter future conflicts? In answering such questions, Baum and Groeling take an in-depth look at media coverage, elite rhetoric, and public opinion during the Iraq war and other U.S. conflicts abroad. They trace how traditional and new media select stories, how elites frame and sometimes even distort events, and how these dynamics shape public opinion over the course of a conflict.

Most of us learn virtually everything we know about foreign policy from media reporting of elite opinions. In War Stories, Baum and Groeling reveal precisely what this means for the future of American foreign policy.

Published by: Princeton University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedications

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pp. vii-viii

List of Figures

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pp. ix-xii

List of Tables

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pp. xiii-xiv

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pp. xv-xvi

In January 2001, Matt was writing a paper about the “rally-’round-the-flag” phenomenon and came across an intriguing paradox: presidents seem to enjoy larger rallies in public support during crises when their political enemies (the opposing party) control the legislature. ...

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pp. xvii-xviii

We could not have completed this work without the financial assistance of the UCLA Academic Senate, the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Harvard’s Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy, and the University of California’s Institute on Global Cooperation and Conflict (IGCC). ...

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Chapter One: News, Opinion, and Foreign Policy

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pp. 1-16

On August 21, 2005, Senators Chuck Hagel (R-NE) and George Allen (R-VA) appeared together on the ABC Sunday morning political roundtable program This Week to discuss American involvement in Iraq. The senators were of comparable stature; both were considered credible aspirants for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, ...

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Chapter Two: Politics across the Water’s Edge

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pp. 17-45

Speaking in St. Louis on July 5, 2008, then-Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama outlined his plans for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq: “The tactics of how we ensure our troops are safe as we pull out, how we execute the withdrawal, those are things that are all based on facts and conditions. ...

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Chapter Three: Elite Rhetoric, Media Coverage, and Rallying ’Round the Flag

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pp. 46-88

In the 1930s, Senator Arthur Vandenberg (R-MI) was one of the most consistent and powerful foreign policy isolationists in the Senate. Prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor that prompted America to enter the Second World War, Vandenberg steadfastly opposed President Franklin Roosevelt’s attempts to increase American involvement in the conflict ...

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Chapter Four: War Meets the Press: Strategic Media Bias and Elite Foreign Policy Evaluations

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pp. 89-113

What makes it into the news? Longtime CBS anchor Walter Cronkite neatly summarized the widely shared perspective of journalists when he said, “Our job is only to hold up the mirror—to tell and show the public what has happened.”1 ...

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Chapter Five: Shot by the Messenger: An Experimental Examination of the Effects of Party Cues on Public Opinion Regarding National Security and War

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pp. 114-148

Republican candidates have famously argued that the media are biased against their candidates, perhaps best exemplified by a popular 1992 bumper sticker reading, “Annoy the Media: Re-elect George Bush.” However, with the rise of the Fox News Channel, Democrats have mounted specific, targeted attempts to marginalize and delegitimize what they argue is a pro-Republican news outlet. ...

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Chapter Six: Tidings of Battle: Polarizing Media and Public Support for the Iraq War

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pp. 149-185

Just before the 2004 presidential election, the New York Times Magazine published an article by veteran reporter Ron Suskind titled “Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush.” In it, the author recounted being criticized by an unnamed member of the Bush administration for overvaluing “judicious study of discernible reality” in the evaluation of policy options. ...

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Chapter Seven: “Reality Asserted Itself”: The Elasticity of Reality and the War in Iraq

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pp. 186-229

Marshalling what he called “simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense,” Thomas Paine once decried what he observed to be stubborn and wrongheaded resistance to the American war for independence: “A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom.” ...

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Chapter Eight: Barbarians inside the Gates: Partisan New Media and the Polarization of American Political Discourse

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pp. 230-283

In August 2007, the FBI asked media organizations in Seattle, Washington, to assist in identifying two men who were seen behaving unusually aboard several ferries in the area. The FBI asked the news outlets to publicize descriptions of the men, including photographs taken by suspicious ferry employees. ...

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Chapter Nine: Back to the Future: Foreign Policy in the Second Era of the Partisan Press

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pp. 284-296

In February 1968, CBS Evening News anchor Walter Cronkite gave what is often regarded as the most important commentary of his long and distinguished career. In his first broadcast since concluding a fact-finding tour of Vietnam following the shocking 1968 Tet Offensive, Cronkite somberly editorialized that, while not on the “edge of defeat,” the United States was “mired in stalemate,” ...


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pp. 297-314


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pp. 315-329

E-ISBN-13: 9781400832187
E-ISBN-10: 1400832187
Print-ISBN-13: 9780691138596
Print-ISBN-10: 0691138591

Page Count: 352
Publication Year: 2009

Edition: Course Book

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • War -- Press coverage -- United States.
  • Foreign news -- United States.
  • United States -- Foreign relations -- Public opinion.
  • Iraq War, 2003-2011 -- Journalists.
  • Public opinion -- United States.
  • Press and politics -- United States.
  • Geschichte 2001-2009 -- swd.
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