Public influence and media’s role in foreign policy making constitutes a vast range of features as they would be employed to influence. Previously we have talked about the internal factors regarding the decision maker either individual or groups and the entire system thoroughly. The more informations attained the more complete foreign policy become possibly and simply observable. Thus it is necessary then to combine both internal and external features to acquire the full and complete inquiry. However, this study is aimed not far from investigating the formulation and and conduct of foreign policy.

A broader scope of external power spring from different sources such as accounts provided by media[1], the mutual and global communications Eytan Gilboa earlier stated[2], public opinion and domestic structure in framing foreign policy[3] in describing foreign policy using a case study, CNN[4] This short essay essentially will address the above features questioning their role in formulating and directing foreign policy neither directly nor indirectly.

  1. Media and foreign policy

The media involvement is explained by Glenn Snyder and his colleagues, he then promotes two models of how media will be incorporated namely input and output model of decision making process. His model takes into account two different aspects, internal setting and external setting.

Internal setting specifically dealing with human environment composed of cultural and demographic composition. This human environment depicted as the reflections of expectations, interpretations of various different members and groups of society and non-governmentals as well[5] in which media have simultaneously played significant tool in expressing and partially bringing them up on the surface so the government will acknowledge to satisfy their demands. This is suggesting that Glenn atempts to encompass media as the only single factor within input feature affecting decision making. Furthermore, Brecher argue that media has not only been seen as single factor acting alone, he proposes that international setting also put effort the same way in input[6]. Different inquiry made by these two different persons must not contribute to misleading, misconception and misunderstanding. Different perspective occupied by different knowledgbe basis, this must become our broad information following with certain tendency that may occur either in present or future. However, these two media environmental models is just a mere example to create how media is likely to be seen exist within decision making process. So far that we have known, decision maker must meet domestic and international views either portrayed by media nor other entity as one of their main source of information, partial reality for practical minded consideration. The second perspective available. It is media seen as the output environment. Later will be discussed below.

1.1  The Media as Environment

mass media as seen as environmental factor in a specific state is likely accomodated by six variables First, the political communication, regime in the state under consideration defines wheter media’s involvement is completely controllable, liberal nor restricticted[7]. Second, the communication policy adopted by the government of that state addressing whether communication regulations utilized by media is created under their favor; some features may be characterised different type of regime[8]. Third, the political economy setting of the mass media; whether media has been merged by large body of communication directed under certain political owners own hugely profitable unit on media business. Fourth, the various communication channels and technologies existing in that country will highly possibly allow the transfering information rapidly[9]. Fifth, the typical functions  performed by media channels will enable certain shifting in old tradition to a more acceptable, developed and broad function (from general into more specific function)[10]. And finally, news values, the criteria that lead media “gatekeepers” to include items and events in the news.

1.2. Media as an output environment

Slightly different form previously mentioned, media as an input in decision making saying that media intentionally or accidently makes effort affection decision makers. In output environmental perspective, how decision makers make some efforts to influence media for instance making some image, develop a campaign that will affect either international point of views or domestic’s. the basic understanding resting on decision makers perform in an environment which includes mediat to make political decisions[11]. The frame thoughts of this perspective will be covering questions regarding who is in charge managing media and bridging relationships between professional media and professional political, what methods are being used by those people in managing or setting a set of regulations upon media[12].


Media remains as one of the powerful feature influencing foreign policy due to its consideration in representing its national and international aspects. Media helps to arrange foreign policy strongly and indirectly by visualizing images and motions that may be feasible reflect view points needed by decision maker. They provide huge amount of specific data, historical accounts, speeches etc. that will equip foreign decision maker effective and more sufficiently important in calculation what options, behaviors, and outcomes might be possible if certain decision would have been undertaken. Media hold two main core functions, media as seen as both input and output of foreign policy making; media is seen as influential factors, media seen as a instrument.

  1. Global communication and foreign policy

Global communication has become a major consquence occurs throughout area with technology network, mainly. This makes Eytan Gilboa views global communication as another actor exist within foreign policy decision making[13]. The building understanding will maintain us to keep on the soft power existence in which technology with the flow of communication globally allows stream of influencing effort. The invention from communication technologies enable several global news channels existed, for instance BBC, CNN international, NBC etc. Their broadcasting network have covered a wide range of nations. This make them able to spread and possibly modify news to fill certain national interest, individual interest or small group interest. Once global communication hasn’t been acting independently, it will be hugely potential being a very useful instrument to frame global viewers as mentioned in CNN effect below.

  1. Public opinion and domestic structure in framing foreign policy

This inquiry focused on liberal democratic states in which public policy have always been matter. Public opinion influence and shape a government’s foreign policy or governments influence and shape the form of public opinion on foreign policy issue. Both occur reciprocally. Public opinion is a political resources wielded by different actors (including the public itself) in different ways. Most of the scholars are arguing the question below. Since it can be one of them is true, but as the matter of fact, there are always two possibility which happened in most of the cases. Relationship between the public and foreign policy decision making is complicated.

There are two basic view to examine this relationship:

  1. Strong impact.

In this view, the public opinion could influence directly and strongly to the foreign policy matters. Because it derives from the pluralist model of policy making. The model is usually ‘bottom-up’ type, which started from the grassroot opinion to the elites. This model also usually found in democracies or pluralistic countries.

  1. Denies any real impact

From this view, we can examine that the influence of public opinion to foreign policy decision making is unseen. It is representing the conventional wisdom in the literature, because according to the popular concensus which is the function of elites concensus and elites cleavages would trickles down to mass public opinion. Or we could say as ‘top-down’ model. It could be found in non-democratic countries.

Besides, in this view, there are 3 different public:

  1. mass public, who usually not interested in foreign policy matter
  2. attentive public, known as interested in and informed about the world affair, but only influence by helped of the interest group.
  3. the elite, which is a small section of public that interested, informed, and influencial in the shaping of public opinion.

According to Ole Holsti, there is no linkage between public opinion and policy formation, but the policy makers’ perception of public opinion would set the parameters for foreign policy behavior.

Difference between how public opinion influence the foreign policy decisionmaking in

  1. Democracies states

Usually we called as “bottom-up” public opinion on foreign policy. Because it would matter more to the public. But the influence is indirect impact, or we could say that there is a long road to make the grassroot opinion to be implemented in the foreign policy directly, and usually got help by the interest group.

  1. Non-democracies

Called as “top-down” effect, which usually came up from the elite to influence the mass opinion. If it became nonfactor in foreign policy decisionmaking, it would not effect the process at all. Or it would play at best an instrumental role for elites,  after it had been made which would influence the grassroot’s life directly. So the scholars argues that it would matter more than an elite-driven model would allow.

  1. New Foreign policy in the power seeking within globalized era

In chapter 5 we discussed how the dominant Japanese pacifist political culture was being challenged by a nationalist subculture. This potential change in political culture had an impact on public opinion in China in 2005. That nationalist challenge in Japan resulted in the election of ardent nationalist leadership in the governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

In the same time period that the history texts were revised, Japan was making its case internationally for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council. The Security Council has five permanent seats (held by the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China) and ten rotating seats. Japan’s bid for a permanent seat rested largely on the strength

of its financial contributions to the United Nations. U.N. membership dues are calculated by the size of national economies. Japan makes the second-highest financial contribution to the United Nations after the United States. Japan’s view was clear: if it paid so much to maintain the U.N. system, it should have a voice commensurate with its contributions.

That voice meant permanent membership, since the real power of the United Nations lies there. Japan was pushing its candidacy in 2005 because of a World Summit scheduled for September that was to consider the issue of reforming the United Nations. Adding permanent member seats to the Security Council was one critical issue under debate. As the Japanese began their public relations campaign in early 2005, a different campaign opposed to Japan’s bid took form in China. Many popular Chinese websites began a petition campaign in February against the Japanese.

Many issues drove the problematic relations between the Chinese and Japanese in this period. These included Japanese claims to some islands and oil reserves in the South China Sea, the increased nationalism of Japanese leadership, the new textbooks already mentioned, and Japan’s bid for a permanent seat in the U.N. Security Council. At the same time, China had replaced the United States as Japan’s primary export market in 2004; and China’s economy had “helped pull the sluggish Japanese economy out of recession.” One of the most basic questions in the study of public opinion and foreign policy is: Does public opinion influence and shape a government’s foreign policy, or does the government influence and shape the form of public opinion on foreign policy issues?

The Chinese case suggests that the answer is a little bit of both—that the relationship between the public and foreign policy decision making is complicated. The Chinese case also demonstrates that public opinion matters to governments, even in nondemocratic systems.

4.1 Different Views On The Public

The relationship between public opinion and foreign policy making is complicated. Scholars and policy makers offer different views on this relationship, but not views that are always compatible. Some of the early foreign policy studies on public opinion focused on whether the public held a structured, coherent view on foreign policy matters. In a 1950

study, Gabriel Almond established one strong position in the scholarship by contending that American citizens were ignorant of foreign policy issues and that their opinions lacked structure and content. This left the public open to volatile mood changes. There are two basic views on the relationship between public opinion and policy making. The first suggests a strong impact, and the second denies any real impact. The first view derives from the pluralist model of policy making. This view is “a ‘bottom-up’ approach [which] assumes that the general public has a measurable and distinct impact on the foreign policy making process. The second view “representing the conventional wisdom in the literature suggests a ‘top-down’ process, according to which popular consensus is a function of the elite consensus and elite cleavages trickle down to mass public opinion.” This view is consistent with realism, as it envisions a persistent national interest pursued by elites and a passive, acquiescent, or inconsequential mass public.Public opinion should matter more in democratic states. Public opinion in nondemocracies, on the other hand, should be a nonfactor in foreign policy making, or should play at best an instrumental role for elites. The research, however, does not support these simple generalizations. Instead, public opinion is seen to have an indirect impact on policy making in democratic states, while public opinion in nondemocracies matters more than an elite-driven model would allow. This gray area is more understandable when we recall that policy makers’ perceptions of

public opinion are crucial.

  1. A case study: define CNN effect towards foreign policy using perspective of global communication, public opinion and domestic structures

There exists in the minds of some observers and policy makers a phenomenon called the “CNN effect.” Political scientist and former U.S. assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs Joseph Nye explains the CNN effect in this way: The free flow of broadcast information in open societies has always had an impact on public opinion and the formation of foreign policy, but now the flows have increased and shortened news cycles have reduced the time for deliberation. By focusing on certain conflicts and human rights problems, broadcasts pressure politicians to respond to some foreign problems and not others. The so-called CNN effect makes it harder to keep some items off the top of the public agenda that might otherwise warrant a lower priority. Nye sees the CNN effect as real and potentially harmful to reasoned policy making. Because the news broadcasts “24/7,” the media sometimes force issues out into the open, issues policy makers would be happier to keep in the dark. This, in turn, lessens deliberation time and the search for the most reasonable policy response. Those who believe that the CNN effect is real propose that it makes use of public opinion. Once the media broadcast images of mass starvation, ethnic conflict, or some other sort of mass suffering, the images arouse strong emotions in the public. The public then turn to their elected officials and demand some strong and morally correct response. This suggests that the media play a powerful role in setting the public Agenda. Media, like other societal actors, can take control of a government’s policy only when that government loses control: If officials let others dominate the policy debate, if they do not closely monitor the progress and results of their own policies, if they fail to build and maintain popular and congressional support for a course of action, if they step beyond the bounds of their public mandate or fail to anticipate problems, they may suddenly seem driven by the news media and its agenda.


Robert Entman offers an understanding of the complicated relationship between policy makers, opposition elites, the media, and the public that combines many of the elements of state-level foreign policy analysis discussed in these last three chapters. The basic set up is this: When a foreign policy problem arises, someone attempts to explain the problem and its solution. That someone might be the policy makers, or what Entman calls the governing elites, or the opposition elites, or even the media. The explaining of the problem and its solution is called “framing.” Framing is not so easy, and it is in the framing that governing elites may get behind on an issue, opening the door to competing frames from the opposition and/or the media. Framing is the act of “selecting and highlighting some facets of events and issues and making connections among them so as to promote a particular interpretation, evaluation and/or solution.” Frames that work best are those that have cultural resonance, that is, frames that evoke words and images that are “noticeable, understandable, memorable, and emotionally charged” in the dominant political culture. Such framing is necessary because all actors in the political context are cognitive misers and satisficers. Successful frames depend on the stimulus: when the foreign policy event is recognizable and congruent with the political culture, then the national response is based on habit. If the governing elite have successfully matched the event with a habitual schema, it requires “almost no cognitive effort [by the public] to make the connections promoted by the administration’s frame of the event.”


There is little scholarly agreement on the impact of public opinion on policy making other than that the impact is probably indirect. There is little scholarly and practitioner agreement on the “CNN effect,” but policy makers seem to believe the effect is real. Scholarship on the “CNN effect” shows that it has no impact on policy once decision makers have already agreed on a course of action. When a government stays in control of the “framing” of a foreign policy event, it generally can control the views of the opposition, media, and the public on that event. When a government lets others define and explain a foreign policy event, it stands to lose control of its own response to that event.


External features never loose an essential part within decision making process. Media as viewed as one of important key framing public opinion is seen within two perspectives, input and output environmental. It enable us to get a clarity of broader function of it. As well as globalization communication is hugely related with the invention and evolution of information technology. It suggests that as the world become global and interest becomes more intense, information can be feasible to modify to meet interest of certain small groups. As the CNN effect explains to us how this information available to allow certain public global viewer seeing international relations by new perspective. Decision maker cannot act alone, decision maker will continously rely on complementary sources outside their authority. However, different regime may contribute to different action how to perceive such intervenes. This will be our new knowledge gained from comparative analysis and thus enable us to make prediction of the possibility that decision makers somehow provided by constrainst exist in their own internal environment. They must play two-level game: satisfy international demand as well as to fulfill domestic demands.

additional updates

Social media alone, however, do not instigate revolutions. They are no more responsible for the recent unrest in Tunisia and Egypt than cassette-tape recordings of Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini speeches were responsible for the 1979 revolution in Iran. Social media are tools that allow revolutionary groups to lower the costs of participation, organization, recruitment and training. But like any tool, social media have inherent weaknesses and strengths, and their effectiveness depends on how effectively leaders use them and how accessible they are to people who know how to use them. (Read more: Social Media as a Tool for Protest | STRATFOR)




Naveh, Chanan. 2002. The Role of Media in Foreign Policy decision-making: a theoretical framework. JSTOR.

Gilboa, Glbal communication and Foreing policy.

Risse-Kappen, Public Opinion, Domestic Structure, and Foreign Policy in Liberal Democracies. JSTOR.

Neack, Laura. 2008. The New Foreign Policy: Power seeking in the Globalized Era. Plymouth: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

[1] Naveh, The Role of Media in Foreign Policy decision-making: a theoretical framework. p.1-14.

[2] Gilboa, Glbal communication and Foreing policy.p.1-18.

[3] Risse-Kappen, Public Opinion, Domestic Structure, and Foreign Policy in Liberal Democracies. p.1-35.

[4] Neack, The New Foreign Policy: Power seeking in the Globalized Era.p.111-128.

[5] Naveh, The Role of Media in Foreign Policy decision-making: a theoretical framework. p.2.

[6] Brecher, 1972. p.10 in Naveh, The Role of Media in Foreign Policy Decision Making : a theoretical framework. p.3.

[7] McQuail, 1994.p.127-131. In Naveh, The Role of Media in Foreign Policy decision making: a theoretical framework. p. 5.

[8] Baldwin, 1996. p.301-352. in Naveh,  p.5.

[9] McQuail, 1994,p 12-21. In Naveh, The Role of Media in Foreign Policy decision making: a theoretical framework. p. 6.

[10] Laswell, 1971. p.85 in Naveh.

[11] Naveh, The Role of Media in Foreign Policy decision making: a theoretical framework. p. 8.

[12] Naveh, The Role of Media in Foreign Policy decision making: a theoretical framework. p. 9-14.

[13] Gilboa, Global Communication and foreign policy.p.1.


About Renny Candradewi Puspitarini

Lecturer at Panca Marga University Faculty of Social Science and Political Science Department of Public Administration

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