International Relations

Wither Elites? The Role of Elite Credibility and Knowledge in Public Perceptions of Foreign Policy

Danielle Lupton Colgate University
Clayton Webb University of Kansas


Existing theories of foreign policy opinion formation tend to treat elites as a black-box category for members of the non-public. This misses important nuances in public perceptions of elites. We argue that elite vocation serves as an important source cue, signaling elite access to information and elite knowledge that can be brought to bear on that information. We use a survey experiment to evaluate our hypotheses comparing four types of elites: elected officials, academics, career-professionals, and members of the media. We find that, even accounting for partisanship, people still evaluate elites as knowledgeable and credible. There are also important differences in public perceptions of elites that should be accounted for in our theories of opinion formation. These findings have important implications for the en-vogue death of expertise argument as well as research on public perceptions of foreign policy and public opinion formation.


Thumbnail image of ElitesV22.pdf


Log in or register with APSA to comment open_in_new
Comments are not moderated before they are posted, but they can be removed by the site moderators if they are found to be in contravention of our Commenting Policy open_in_new – please read this policy before you post. Comments should be used for scholarly discussion of the content in question. You can find more information about how to use the commenting feature here open_in_new .
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy open_in_new and Terms of Service open_in_new apply.