Elite Opinion Analysis - EU External Perceptions - University of Canterbury - New Zealand

Elite Opinion Analysis

“The rationale for including élite images among the inputs of a foreign policy system is a simple truth: decision makers act in accordance with their perception of reality, not in response to reality itself. […] In any event, all decision-makers may be said to possess a set of images and to be governed by them in their response to foreign policy problems. Indeed, élite images are no less “real” than the reality of their environment and are much more relevant to an analysis of the foreign policy flow." [9]

Elite perceptions and attitudes of foreign counterparts (including the EU) are believed to one of the key inputs into a foreign policy system. Correspondingly, the identification of the patterns of foreign actors’ perceptions at the ‘elite’ level was to enhance the understanding of the conduct of foreign policy towards the EU by the Asia-Pacific countries, as well as the EU’s reactions (on an policy-making level) to the external images of the Union identified in the external regions in the course of this project.

Sampling strategy for the elite interviews included a random selection of the key informants across the country and across the various cohorts. The interviews take place in political and economic centers of each individual location.  The analysis involved comparison between perceptions of the EU expressed by elites in business, political, civil society and media sectors:

  • 'Political elites' are identified as primary political actors, with a primary focus on current members of national parliaments representing different parties and a secondary focus on government officials and servants.
  • 'Business elites' were identified as members of national business round tables, Chambers of Commerce, and other official business networks, and leading exporters to the EU.
  • 'Civil society elite' were identified as representatives of various non-government organizations and non-state-actors (both of international and local status)
  • 'Media elites' were identified as international, political and business editors, editors-in-chief, television news broadcast producers and both key locally- and Europe-based correspondents of the media outlets that were established as the national leaders in the EU coverage.

A target of 40 interviews (with a minimum of 32) in each location is sufficient to obtain reliable representative views. The size and profile of the sample and the kind of data contemplated reinforced the choice of a data collection strategy, namely individual in-depth face-to-face semi-structured on-record interviews. This technique was argued to be a more personal, flexible, and respective of respondents’ privacy and status approach. Each interview lasts 45 minutes on average.


[9] Brecher, Michael (1968) India and World Politics: Krishna Menon’s View of the World. New York and Washington: Frederick A. Praeger, Publishers, p.298.

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