U.S. Government Public Opinion Surveys on Security Issues in Western Europe

October 22, 2019

Guide to a Collection in the Tufts University Digital Library

Richard C. Eichenberg

Version 1

September 19, 2019


I have been conducting research on West European public opinion on national security issues since the late 1970s on such issues as images of the United States and the USSR (later Russia), nuclear weapons, the NATO Alliance, defense spending, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Much of this research was based on polling done by the Office of Research (Western Europe) in the United States Information Agency (USIA, whose title varies over the years).

            Much of this information is reported in my books and articles (Eichenberg 1989; 2003), and an additional compilation is contained in this collection (Eichenberg 1981).  However, a great deal of additional information is contained in the original reports that USIA was kind enough to share with me.  It recently occurred to me that eventually I will need to dispose of my files containing these reports, and I knew from experience that they do not exist in any published form that is easily available to scholars (see below on two alternatives: the U.S. National Archives and the World Catalog).

            I consulted with Ms. Andrea Schuler, our Tufts University Librarian for Digital Collections, and Mr. Elliot Brandow, our library’s team lead for the social sciences. They enthusiastically agreed to undertake the digitization of the reports. 

            You can access them in the Tufts Digital Library here.  What follows is additional information that may be useful to scholars studying public opinion on national security in Western Europe (and elsewhere).

Is this a complete collection of survey reports from USIA?

The answer is almost certainly no. The agency responded to my requests for reports on key issues, and in some cases reached out to provide more, but if I failed to ask or I was unaware of new surveys undertaken, those reports will not be in my collection. In addition, the first report in my collection is dated 1978, but USIA had been conducting surveys since the 1950s.  Many of the reports in my collection have retrospective summaries of older surveys, but others may exist in the files of the National Archives.  The World Catalog (WorldCat), discussed below, may also lead you to libraries that hold copies of USIA reports, and these may be available through inter-library loan.  Finally, my first book (1989) contains a very complete bibliography of scholars who studied the earliest USIA surveys (Richard Merritt, Donald Puchala, Karl Deutsch, and Bruce Russett).U

US National Archives

Of course, the USIA is required like all executive agencies to deposit their records in the US National Archives (some of these from the 1980s are listed in the bibliography in Eichenberg 1989).  Thus, it is certain that additional reports are on deposit there.  In addition, I know from experience that the files for each survey contain a contractor’s report, a complete questionnaire, and often a complete table of crosstabulations.

Of course, the challenge is to find them, and the best advice is to seek the help of staff at the Archives or in your own library.  My own quick online check provides a starting point. The following links yield a list of materials for Record Group 306, “Records of the U.S. Information Agency” (RG 306) from the 1950s through 1999:



Finding USIA opinion reports using the World Catalog (WorldCat)

One report in our collection from 1978 states that copies of research reports from USIA were available at a limited number of repository libraries, the list of which was available only by request.  At the time, it would have been extremely difficult to track them down, but the advent of WorldCat now makes it possible to find publications in  libraries worldwide and request them through inter-library loan (depending on policies of the library that holds them).[1]

What follows is a brief primer on using the World Catalog to find USIA reports. First, navigate to WorldCat.  Second, use very specific search criteria.  The following searches will return a list of USIA reports with a list of libraries that hold a copy in their collections (the number of libraries varies from one to ten).  Note that you can limit the search to specific topics, such as “NATO” or “Germany” or “nuclear weapons”.

“united states information agency” “office of research”

“united states information agency” “office of research” NATO

“united states information agency” “office of research” Germany

“united states information agency” “office of research” nuclear weapons

Once you have located one or more reports, use your library’s facility for inter-library loan to request a copy

Archival locations of original survey datasets

This Tufts collection contains written reports that summarize the survey findings, but what of the original survey datasets? Some of these are available in two places:  the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research at Cornell University and the GESIS – Leibniz-Institute for the Social Sciences at the University of Mannheim:[2]

  • Roper Center: search archived datasets here. The Roper Center acquired a large number of original USIA survey datasets.  Search by using “USIA” as the Organization, and limit the search if you wish by choosing a particular country (for example, “France” yields 109 surveys from 1954-1993);
  • GESIS appears to have acquired German surveys only, and the collection appears to be very complete.  Search here using “USIA” as the sole search term.

Other sources on public opinion, national security, and NATO

A number of organizations now conduct surveys in Western Europe.  The following are most useful (in both cases the original survey datasets are available):

  • German Marshall Fund, Transatlantic Trends survey series in as many as 14 countries from 2002-2014. 

In addition, Everts and Isernia (2015) provide a wide-ranging analysis of West European surveys from a number of sources.

Surveys in countries outside of Western Europe

The Tufts collection covers only written survey reports from the West European division of the Office of Research in USIA.  However, other divisions administered surveys in many other countries in South America, South Asia, and Asia.  Some of the survey datasets are deposited in the Roper Center archive, discussed above. A quick search yielded 59 surveys conducted in India from 1973-200, 93 surveys in Japan from 1963-2001, and 24 surveys in Brazil from 1962-2001.  Many surveys from other countries are also held in the Roper Archive.  In addition, written reports of the Office of Research may be found through the World Catalog, discussed above.

Send Us Your Reports!

If you have copies of USIA reports from your research or former government employment, please contact us and we will add it to the collection. 


I am grateful to two fine librarians at the Tufts University Tisch Library for devising and overseeing the digitization of this collection.  The expertise and good humor of Ms. Andrea Schuler and Mr. Elliot Brandow are much appreciated.


[1] If you work in a university, your library may have a customized version of the World Catalog as a separate resource or as part of the library’s search mechanism.  Your librarian is your best friend when it comes to using this resource.

[2] The US National Archives discussed earlier also preserves some digital material, so original survey datasets may also be available in electronic form.


Eichenberg, Richard C. 1981. Source Tables: Public Opinion on National Security and Defense Spending in Western Europe and the United States. Tufts University Tisch Library. http://hdl.handle.net/10427/Z603R985R.

———. 1989. Public Opinion and National Security in Western Europe. Cornell Studies in Security Affairs. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

———. 2003. “The Polls–Trends Having It Both Ways: European Defense Integration and the Commitment to NATO.” Public Opinion Quarterly 67 (4): 627–59. https://doi.org/10.1086/379087.

Everts, Philip P. and Pierangelo Isernia,  . 2015. Public Opinion, Transatlantic Relations and the Use of Force. New Security Challenges Series. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire ; New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Do Women Dislike Drone Strikes More Than Other Types of Airstrikes?  (yes, but only a little)

February 27, 2015

Surveys in many countries show very large gender differences in approval of strikes by pilot less drones. For example, in June 2013, the German Marshall Fund Transatlantic Trends survey asked the following question (click on any image to enlarge):



















Similar results occurred in a Pew Global Attitudes Survey conducted in Spring 2013; the average gender difference in support for drone strikes was 20 percentage points:



The consistency of this finding has led to speculation as to why women should be particularly negative about drone strikes and even to some disagreement as to whether gender is really a significant cleavage in public opinion on war and peace issues.  Insightful analysis here, here, and here.

A frequently cited explanation for the large gender difference on drones is that women are more sensitive to civilian casualties, and there is some evidence for this in American public opinion (as in this survey by Pew from February 2013). However, this same Pew survey of the US revealed that women are also more likely to cite other reasons for opposing drones, including concerns about their legality, their effect on the US image, and concerns about retaliation by “extremists.”

Thus, it may simply be that opposition to drones among women is part of a broader pattern of greater skepticism toward the use of military force.

An additional question is why drone strikes should evoke stronger gender difference than other types of air and missile attacks.  After all, press treatment of drone technologies emphasizes their technological sophistication and “last minute” target acquisition capabilities.  Surely citizens have gained the impression that collateral civilian damage from such strikes, while possible and even evident, may be less than conventional air strikes from fighter or high-flying bombers?  We know, for example, that the public reacted negatively to several instances of mistaken air attacks against civilian targets during the Gulf War of 1991, the war in Kosovo in 1999, and in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (see the excellent Rand Corporation study of public reaction to these incidents by Eric V. Larson and Bogdan Savychof  here).

In this post, I provide additional insight on these questions. The analysis draws on my study of gender difference in opinions of the use of force in as many as 37 countries from 1990 through 2004. Complete details on my definitions and other methodological issues are provided in this paper. Briefly summarized, I evaluate “support for using military force” by including any survey question that seeks a positive or negative opinion on “the potential or actual use of military force [past, present, or future]… including questions that actively (if sometimes hypothetically) query approval or disapproval of an action involving military force as a means of policy and also including questions that ask if the action is justified, appropriate, or the right thing to do.”

The dataset includes survey measures of support for using military force in six historical episodes: the Gulf War of 1991; the ensuing confrontation with Iraq over weapons inspections (1991-2002); NATO’s intervention in Bosnia (1992-1995); NATO’s attack against Serbia in support of the Kosovar Albanians (1998-1999); the US war against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan (2001-2004); and the war against Iraq and subsequent occupation (during 2003-2004).  The full dataset includes 612 survey measures of support for using force, drawn from 37 countries (for a separate analysis of American public opinion since 1984, see this paper). In the analysis below, survey questions about air or missile strikes were asked in 31 countries; most (but not all) of these occur in NATO member countries.

In this post, “gender difference” is the percentage of women who support the use of force minus the same percentage for men.

The first chart below shows that women are less supportive of any type of military action, but air and missile strikes are indeed the type of action that evokes the largest gender difference: women are less supportive by an average of 18 percentage points (note: the average for naval actions is based on only four survey questions).  Note also that the gender difference of 18 percentage points is identical to the average for drone strikes in the GMF survey shown above, and it is only slightly smaller than the average in the Pew survey from Spring 2013 (20 percentage points).


Gender Difference in support for military actions












The chart shown below indicates that air or missile strikes elicited larger gender differences in four of the six episodes in my study.  Although I do not show the results for individual countries here, gender difference on air or missile strikes is the largest for any military action in all but five countries (the exceptions are Greece, Japan, Poland, Portugal, and Turkey).


Gender Difference in Support for Air or Missiles Strikes Compared to Other Military Actions Combined


 These results make clear that the large gender difference on the question of using drones is not unique: women dislike air and missile strikes (relative to men) by a margin that is at most only slightly lower than their dislike for drone strikes.  However, what these summary results do not tell us is why drone, air, and missile strikes should evoke such a large gender difference compared to other types of military actions.  As noted above, it may be that women are more sensitive to casualties, but the results here indicate that the issue is not casualties in the absolute: sending or increasing troops are actions that also risk casualties, but the gender difference for these actions is smaller.  It may be that air strikes and drone strikes risk higher civilian casualties (as the Pew surveys seem to find), which might imply that women are more likely than men to feel empathy or solidarity with civilians in target countries. Finally, it may be that the sudden, unexpected nature of air strikes evokes the greater sense of vulnerability to violence that women are known to experience relative to men (see this paper for an interesting discussion of this possibility). Which of these explanations is closest to the mark is something we cannot say on the basis of aggregate percentages such as those presented here, so a fuller understanding of gender difference must await additional research that explores these hypotheses in greater detail at the individual level.


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