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Does Where You Stand Depend on When You Were Born? The Impact of Generation on Post-Vietnam Foreign Policy Beliefs

Ole R. Holsti and James N. Rosenau
The Public Opinion Quarterly
Vol. 44, No. 1 (Spring, 1980), pp. 1-22
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2748586
Page Count: 22
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Does Where You Stand Depend on When You Were Born? The Impact of Generation on Post-Vietnam Foreign Policy Beliefs
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Abstract

American involvement in Vietnam and its attending domestic conflict have generated a good deal of speculation about generational differences and, more specifically, about the divergent "lessons" that Americans of different ages have drawn from the most salient foreign policy episodes they have experienced. The most visible lines of cleavage have quite often been described as falling between those whose views were shaped by the events leading up to World War II, on the one hand, and, on the other, those whose outlook has been molded by the war in Southeast Asia. Using data from questionnaire responses of 2,282 American leaders in various occupations, this article assesses the validity of the "Munich generation versus Vietnam generation" thesis. The findings indicate that the most salient cleavages on foreign policy exist between occupations and within generation, rather than vice versa. The article concludes with a discussion of the prospects for early achievement of domestic consensus on issues of international politics and American foreign policy.

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