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Foreign Policy Centre

Ideas for a fairer world

Research: Public Opinion and Diplomacy

Global public opinion is increasingly a strategic concern for states acting on the world stage. With recent advances in technology, the traditional spheres of international state activity – political, economic and military – have been joined by a fourth: information. The spread of democracy and the expanding technological reach of mass communication networks increasingly provide governments with the ability to bypass heads of foreign states to pursue their foreign policy agendas. Whether it is putting together - or maintaining - international coalitions on political or military issues, or trying to compete for a share of global trade, tourism or investments, governments must learn to communicate and extract a premium for their national reputation. They can no longer afford to ignore the value of 'public diplomacy' as a strategic tool.

Current FPC public diplomacy research is focussing on diasporas, innovative use of technologies for effective monitoring and evaluation, and the 2012 London Olympics.


> Britons have already said no to citizens travelling abroad to fight, no matter what the cause

By Prof Thomas J. Scotto, Dr Jason Reifler, Prof Paul Whiteley, Prof Harold Clarke.

In this article, four senior UK and US academics use data gathered in a May 2014 survey they commissioned that focused on British foreign policy attitudes. The researchers asked UK respondents how the British Government should deal with UK nationals travelling abroad to fight against al-Assad in Syria, in Ukraine, and against Boko Haram in Nigeria. They found that pluralities of respondents in all three situations favour stripping such individuals of UK citizenship, and less than 20% of those surveyed believe the Government should allow its citizens to fight in any of these emerging conflicts. They argue that Home Secretary Theresa May would have public support behind her if, as planned, new measures are brought forth to crack down on UK citizens fighting for foreign armies or groups.

Download Britons have already said no to citizens fighting abroad (440 kilobyte PDF)

> FCO in focus

By Adam Hug. Source: The House Magazine

The FCO originally seemed destined to be a relative backwater for the Coalition – despite the presence of a Conservative Big Beast in William Hague – with Government priorities clearly focused on the economy and the domestic agenda. To that end, greater impetus has been given to the FCO's role in supporting British trade promotion efforts. While never far from the minds of any British government, initial scruples around repeating the old 'batting for Britain' approach were soon put on the back burner with the Africa Minister turning up early on in Sudan with a trade delegation despite ICC indictments and the similar slightly awkward appearance of David Cameron in post-Arab Spring Cairo with business people in tow.

Full text >

> FPC Conversation Piece: Labour's Next Foreign Policy. A Response.

By David Clark, Prof Jason Ralph, David Clark.

In this double-headed paper Jason Ralph examines the principles that might inform the kind of foreign policy that might be expected from a Labour government led by Ed Miliband. Ralph focuses on a Fabian Society paper, Labour's Next Foreign Policy by David Clark, to discuss the historical and theoretical context of Miliband's approach and to provide a framework for a wider discussion about Labour foreign policy. David Clark then provides a response to Ralph's analysis in this new format Foreign Policy Conversation Piece briefing paper. It aims to prompt further debate and reflection on the challenges and opportunities facing centre-left foreign policy makers.

Download FPC Conversation Piece: Labour's Next Foreign Policy (420 kilobyte PDF)

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> Global politics after 9/11: The Democratiya interviews

[Cover of Global politics after 9/11: The Democratiya interviews]

Alan Johnson


Download The Democratiya Interviews (1.36 megabyte PDF)

Price: £9.95 + £2 p&p (UK orders) / US$45 (overseas orders)

This book brings together a series of conversations about the dilemmas of progressive foreign policy after 9/11. Democratiya editor Alan Johnson talks to Jean Bethke Elshtain, Martin Shaw, Kanan Makiya, Paul Berman, David Held, Saad Eddin Ibrahim, Ladan Boroumand, Anne-Marie Slaughter (now Director of Policy Planning at the US State Department), Joshua Muravchik and Mary Kaldor.

To order:

Send a cheque for £11.95 (for UK orders) made payable to The Foreign Policy Centre or an international money order for US$45 (for overseas orders) to: The Foreign Policy Centre (Book Orders), Suite 14, 2nd Floor, 23-28 Penn Street, London N1 5DL, UK. Make clear you are ordering 'Global Politics After 9/11' and include your full postal address.

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> The Iraq Commission Report

[Cover of The Iraq Commission Report]

Alex Bigham

July 2007 Hard copy: £2.95, plus £1 p+p.

Download the report (440 kilobyte PDF)

The Foreign Policy Centre, in conjunction with Channel 4, set up an independent, cross-party Commission tasked with producing a blueprint for Britain's future involvement in Iraq.

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> Having Faith in Foreign Policy

Alex Bigham

2007 Hard copy: £2.95, plus £1 p+p.

The Foreign Policy Centre is delighted to launch of the new report, 'Having Faith in Foreign Policy'. This collection of essays brings together faith leaders and intellectuals to discuss, debate and attempt to answer some of the most vexed questions of our age: what is the relationship between religion and the state in a post-modern society; what is the interaction between faith, conflict and development and how can governments and leaders reach out to citizens who may feel disengaged from foreign policy?

This report and event are supported by HE Anthony Bailey, KCSS, Eligo International ( and the Grand Magistral Delegation for Inter-Religious Relations of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George (

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Past Events

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> The crisis in Syria and public opinion: views from the UK, US and France

Date: Tuesday 11 March 2014

Time: 6.30-8.00pm (please note amended start time)

Venue: Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) Room(off Westminster Hall), Houses of Parliament, London SW1A 0AA


  • Ian Lucas MP, Shadow Middle East Minister
  • Rt Hon Alistair Burt MP, Former Middle East Minister
  • Prof. Thomas Scotto, Professor of Government, University of Essex
  • Dr. Jason Reifler, Senior Lecturer, University of Exeter
  • Joe Twyman, Director of Political and Social Research, YouGov

Chair: Deborah Haynes, Defence Editor, The Times

Foreign Policy Centre is delighted to host upcoming panel, with the kind support of the University of Essex, which will examine some of the key findings of new research being conducted by the Universities of Essex, Exeter, and Texas-Dallas, with assistance of YouGov and a grant from the ESRC. The event will look to enhance public understanding of the nature and consequences of the reaction of citizens in three mature democracies (UK, US, and France) to the dynamic and volatile military and humanitarian situation in Syria. It will examine the size and effectiveness of aid contributions to the region against the backdrop of rising aid scepticism linked to the downturn.

The event will examine the findings of research surveys that explore the views of the UK,US and French publics as to:

  • whether people are capable of forming coherent and durable foreign policy judgments;
  • how people weigh costs and benefits of alternative courses of action that leaders propose to respond to the Syrian crisis;
  • what extent are public reactions to the Syrian crisis affected by attitudes about the political elite(s) proposing various responses;
  • what are citizens' beliefs about the morality of war and the necessity of humanitarian relief in their reactions to the Syrian crisis;
  • levels of public engagement with their country's responses to the crisis;
  • how core values and personality characteristics shape attitudes toward the Syrian crisis;
  • national and socio-demographic variation in responses to the crisis.

Download The crisis in Syria and public opinion (220 kilobyte PDF)

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> What the UK and US think: Shared values or differing interests in public attitudes to foreign policy?

University of Essex logo

DATE: Thursday 6 September 2012

TIME: 6.00-7.30pm

VENUE: Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) Room (off Westminster Hall), Houses of Parliament, London SW1A 0AA


  • Rt Hon John Spellar MP, Shadow Foreign Office Minister
  • Dr Rob Johns, Senior Lecturer, Department of Government, University of Essex
  • Dr Thomas Scotto, Senior Lecturer, Department of Government, University of Essex
  • Joe Twyman, Director, Political and Social Research, YouGov

Chair: Carola Hoyos,Defence Correspondent,Financial Times

At this Foreign Policy Centre and University of Essex event, some of the key findings of a recent large-scale ESRC-funded cross-country study into public attitudes towards foreign policy will be presented and analysed. The attitudes of the British public on specific foreign affairs issues will be compared to the attitudes of Americans on issues including military intervention, the NATO mission in Afghanistan and nuclear weapons, amongst many others.

The implications of these results will also be discussed with a broad panel of speakers including politicians, journalists, pollsters and academics including what they show about how public opinion impacts on foreign policymaking in different countries and what implications that might have for coordinated foreign policymaking by the 'West', both now and in the future, especially given current constraints on public spending. Public opinion and foreign policy academics from the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Turkey will also offer insights on how the publics of these and other European nations stand on issues related to foreign policy.

A video podcast showing the event is available here

Download event invite - What the UK and US think about foreign policy (70 kilobyte PDF)

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> A foreign policy for the people? Do politicians and the public agree on Britain's future role in the world?

University of Essex & University of Leeds logos

DATE: Tuesday 28 June 2011

TIME: 6.30-8.00pm

VENUE: Committee Room 3A, House of Lords, London SW1A 0PW (Use Cromwell Green Visitors' entrance)


  • Rt Hon Lord David Howell, Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
  • Kim Sengupta, Defence and Diplomatic Correspondent, The Independent
  • Dr Graeme Davies, Lecturer, International Security, University of Leeds
  • Dr Rob Johns, Senior Lecturer, Dept of Politics, University of Essex
  • Prof Jason Ralph, Professor in International Relations & Director of Research, University of Leeds

Chair: Sir Robert Worcester DL KBE, Chair & Founder, MORI

This Foreign Policy Centre event in partnership with the Universities of Essex and Leeds is the second in a series examining the relationship between UK foreign policy and public opinion. This event will provide a timely opportunity to debate public support for past, current and future UK military interventions overseas and the "special relationship" with the United States.

It is almost universally acknowledged that a hallmark of British foreign policy under Tony Blair's Labour government was liberal interventionism: a willingness to use force abroad for various purposes - humanitarian intervention, peacekeeping and regime change - even if British national interests were seemingly involved only indirectly. As Blair argued at the time: "…a political philosophy that does care about other nations - Kosovo, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone - and is prepared to change regimes on their merits, should be gung-ho on Saddam."

A parallel argument could be said to underlie the present coalition government's decision to join military action in Libya. This suggests a cross-party consensus in favour of liberal interventionism. Yet, this raises questions: first, is elite political consensus on foreign policy in the UK as clear as it appears? What role should a UN mandate play in UK policymaking, especially when it clashes with US policy? In particular, will Labour in opposition maintain the same foreign policy approach? Second, where does the UK public stand? Is there general support for the principles underlying Labour's and now the coalition's seeming interventionism? What effect have the Afghanistan and Iraq wars had on British public opinion concerning military action, especially in light of the recent Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), the related defence cuts and the current unprecedented levels of public support for the armed forces?

If you would like to attend, please RSVP to:

Download Dr Rob Johns & Dr Graeme Davies' presentation (440 kilobyte PDF)

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