This chapter develops and deepens the book’s analysis by examining the relationship between public opinion and counterterrorism within the executive branch. Through in-depth qualitative interviews with nine key policymakers from the period 2001–2011 (many of whom were cabinet-level ministers responsible for counterterrorism policy), the chapter examines how these individuals think about public opinion, the extent to which they consider it to be important to counterterrorism policymaking and the ways in which they sought to (in some cases) engage with, and possibly shape, that opinion. Analysis of the interviews shows that public opinion is seen to be crucial for counterterrorism policy, mainly because of its salience. And yet interviewees expressed a great deal of uncertainty about the specific content of public opinion. Faced with this uncertainty, the chapter argues that political elites “construct” public opinion in two ways; indirectly through representations and depictions of what the public wants and directly, by reaching out to the public and engaging in dialogue about counterterrorism policy. In doing so, and particularly in choosing who to speak to and where, the chapter demonstrates how political elites are active participants in shaping public opinion – or at the very least, what counts for them as public opinion.
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Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
Year of publication: 2023Date of RADAR deposit: 2023-05-16
"This is the accepted manuscript of a book chapter published by Routledge in Public Opinion and Counter-Terrorism on 12 May 2023, available online: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003244585."