Lamenting the lack of public awareness of international events and U.S. foreign policy is not a particularly novel exercise; yet, explaining the process by which issues enter and exit the public realm remains a challenging endeavor. Despite contributions from researchers working in international relations and mass communication, explaining public inattentiveness continues to vex scholars. However, in his article, "Up and Down with Ecology: The 'Issue-Attention Cycle,'" Anthony Downs provides a parsimonious and tractable model of public opinion that can be applied to foreign policy issues.1 While Downs concerns himself exclusively with domestic issues, particularly environmental issues, his model has thepotential to contribute to our understanding of the relationship between the public and policymakers over critical issues such as international terrorism. With minor modifications, the model has the potential to explain public support for failed foreign policies as well. Downs' model, when applied to international terrorism, explains why policymakers seek simple solutions, why the public supports such solutions, and why the media fail to provide meaningful coverage of intractable issues such as international terrorism. Before discussing Downs' model, the basic tenets and shortcomings of some of the more prevalent theories of the relationship between public opinion and foreign policy are discussed below.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/karen_petersen/1/