This study argues that citizens base their opinions about world affairs in part on generalized beliefs about how much their nation can trust other nations. Using original data from a two-wave panel survey and a cross-sectional survey, we show that Americans hold stable, internally consistent, and largely pessimistic generalized beliefs about whether the United States can trust other nations. We find that social trust, political trust, partisanship, and age influence this form of trust, which we call international trust. We then demonstrate that international trust shapes whether Americans prefer internationalism to isolationism, perceive specific foreign nations as unfriendly and threatening, and favor military action against Iraq. The role of international trust in shaping opinion may be consistent with theories of low-information rationality, but competing interpretations are also plausible.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science
- Political Science and International Relations