Portraying American Public Opinion toward the Bosnia Crisis (abstract)

By Richard Sobel

Richard Sobel, fall 1996 fellow, compares the disparity between public support for intervention in Bosnia as expressed in polls, and the limited reporting of those opinions in U.S. media and political discussions. Sobel hypothesizes that the press did not fully portray evidence of support because of the post-Vietnam syndrome, the intensity of the opposition, the media’s tendency to “frame” stories in simplified ways. Though a majority of the polls showed support for humanitarian aid and multilateral intervention, most stories reported in the media stressed opposition. Sobel uses ABC’s Nightline and Newsweek as examples of incomplete portrayals. These patterns raise important questions about how fully the media and political debates represent the opinions of the American public on pressing issues in foreign affairs.

Read the paper in The International Journal of Press/Politics.