Date of Conferral





Public Policy and Administration


Karen L. Shafer


Researchers have found that higher education is known to stabilize political opinions and thought to enhance critical thinking skills. The role that an individual's level of education plays in shaping public opinion during a foreign affairs crisis, within the context of repetitious and uniform news media coverage, has yet to be determined. The theoretical foundation of agenda-setting explains how salience is created by emphasizing certain messages and influencing public opinion and may bypass education and political knowledge. The purpose of this quantitative study was to examine the relationship between education level and public opinion immediately before the Iraq War. The analysis used a secondary dataset consisting of 3,262 respondents in a 2002 national public opinion survey. Binomial logistic regression was used to test 5 hypotheses. Findings indicated there was a significant relationship between education levels and support for combatting international terrorism as a foreign policy goal as well as the use of troops to invade Iraq (p < .006). The results indicated that in some instances higher education played a significant role in shaping public opinion during the period before the Iraq War. Positive social change from this research includes helping policy-makers understand how public opinion is shaped during a crisis so the views of the citizenry can be more effectively incorporated into the policy-making process.