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Title: How the Public's Concerns Over Symbolic Prestige Influence America's Foreign Policy
Authors: Ribar, David
Advisors: Mendelberg, Tali
Contributors: Politics Department
Keywords: foreign policy
public opinion
Subjects: Political science
International relations
Issue Date: 2021
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: For centuries, American politicians have justified their foreign policy actions on the basis of preserving America’s “national honor” – its standing among nations. Political leaders and scholars alike have assumed that the mass public cares deeply about this standing, justifying their respective actions and theories on this assumption. But for all this, we still know little about whether members of the public actually think this way, why they might do so, and what impact their concerns might have. This dissertation aims to fill each of these three important gaps. In the first paper, I examine foreign policy deliberations in four distinct spheres and construct original corpora totaling over 400,000 individual documents to demonstrate that members of the public really do view international affairs in terms of national prestige. In my second paper, I use evidence from original survey experiments to show how heightened concerns over personal prestige, both latent and induced, lead Americans to have greater demands for prestige-enhancing foreign policy actions. I further demonstrate that national identity serves as a key moderator of this relationship, showing how this identity leads individuals to associate their own standing with that of their nation. Finally, in my third paper I bring in multiple conflict datasets spanning 200 years of American history to show how presidents’ use-of-force decisions are responsive to the prestige-related concerns of their constituents. Across these three papers, I develop a broad theory of how personal concerns over prestige can combine with national identity to shape not only the way that individual Americans view the world, but also the policies that they demand and the decisions that America’s leaders enact.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Politics

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