We undertook this latest survey of the Times Mirror Center for The People & The Press, America’s Place in the New World, in an effort to discover where the nation’s top non-governmental leaders believe America is today, domestically and in foreign affairs, and where it should go in the post Cold War world.
“At this moment of panoramic change, of vast opportunities and troubling threats,” as President Clinton described the present climate, we asked those who influence American opinion and policy direction: What are the most important problems facing the nation? What are the greatest foreign dangers? What should America’s top goals be — economic, political, security, and ecologic? We asked them what leadership role the United States should play in the new world. We asked them to prioritize a list of specific policy options. We asked which area of the world was now most important to America: the Pacific Rim or Europe.
We spent considerable time and effort deciding who to poll in addition to the public. Political leaders in Congress and the Administration were excluded on the grounds that their views are already known, or at least they have ample opportunity to make them known. Some respondent groups were relatively easy to identify in view of our subject, including those in the foreign affairs and the defense-security areas, in industry and finance, and in the media.
Beyond that, we included a group of governors and the mayors of large cities to insure that local attitudes were represented in the survey. We chose top figures of the academic world to insure that those scholars and intellectuals were heard. We selected leaders of the religious communities to insure that the keepers of our moral and ethical values would be included. We chose scientists and engineers because they represent the creators of our modern technological society.
We included well-known cultural figures from the worlds of art and entertainment (writers, critics, musicians) since those who ‘write the songs’ reflect the country’s images for today and tomorrow. There is no perfect questionnaire and no perfect sample, but within those imperfections, we tried our best to reach the broadest spectrum of those who influence the American people.
We owe a special debt of gratitude to Robert C. Toth who authored this report and managed this project for the Center. His years of experience as a diplomatic and foreign correspondent added invaluably to questionnaire design and analysis.