Date Presented

Spring 4-2017

Document Type

Thesis

Access Type

1

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

Department

International Relations

First Advisor

Dr. David Richards

Second Advisor

Dr. Daniel Lang

Third Advisor

Dr. Brian Crim

Abstract

This study utilizes Robert Putnam’s “Two Level Game Theory” to understand whether public opinion influenced President Obama's first-term administration when confronted with foreign policy decisions. Some scholars argue that there is an overall lack in understanding of how public opinion affects American foreign policy because the public is disengaged and uneducated on foreign issues and that the role of media influences the public’s attitude towards a certain issue. Accordingly, it is hypothesized here that public opinion was not a factor in this process. To test this proposition, the study evaluates three cases: the “closing” of Guantanamo Bay, the United States’ intervention in Libya, and the continuation of the drone program. Throughout each case, multiple variables are examined including: public opinion of the citizens and the political elite, President Obama’s political communication, and international diplomatic actions. Findings indicate that public opinion did not play any major role in President Obama’s foreign policy decision-making process; therefore, President Obama’s policies did not meet Robert Putnam’s criteria of domestic influence in the two level game theory. When looking at the results of the three cases that were examined in the study, it is safe to say that the results were inconclusive because only two of the three cases met the expectations of the hypothesis. The cases of Guantanamo Bay and the intervention in Libya supported the hypothesis because even though public opinion was strongly against closing the prison and getting involved in the war in Libya, the Obama Administration continuously pursued its support for these policies regardless of the public’s opinion and desires. With the drone program, there was strong support from the public for using and continuing the drone program in fighting terrorism. Therefore, the drone program is the only case where the support from the domestic level aligned with the support from the international level, as predicted by Robert Putnam’s two level game theory.

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