Students Staff

06 October 2009

First of its kind survey asks about foreign policy

Colchester Campus

Dr Thomas Scotto

Members of the public are to be asked their views on a range of foreign policies as diverse as the deployment of troops to Afghanistan, giving aid to developing nations and restrictions on immigration and asylum as part of a first of its kind cross-national study of foreign policy attitudes.

Dr Thomas Scotto, a Lecturer in the Department of Government at the University of Essex will set up and carry out the survey after receiving more than £350,000 in funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). He plans to ask members of the public in six different countries what they think about foreign policy and believes that findings from the research will be of use not just to academics but to political analysts and politicians alike.

The cross-national internet-based survey will ask people in six different countries what they think about a range of policies and how those policies affect the support they give to political parties and the way they vote. Dr Scotto said: “This is a very exciting and innovative project that will help us better understand the relationship between public opinion and foreign policy and whether the public can effectively check the foreign policy decisions of their leaders.”
Dr Scotto was one of just 22 researchers out of 340 applicants to receive funding from the ESRC in a First Grants competition and he is the first researcher at the University of Essex ever to be successful in winning a grant in this competition.

Approximately 3,000 people from each country – United Kingdom, United States, France, Germany, Italy and Canada will be surveyed. Dr Scotto believes it will be fascinating to see whether people in similarly developed countries have similar attitudes and preferences or whether these are affected by different cultures and history. For the UK and the US the survey will go back to the same people five times over a three year period to see if and how attitudes change over time.

Dr Scotto and his team plan to make the extensive data from the survey freely available online and to stage an international conference to share its findings once the study is complete.

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