The Importance of a Liberal Power's Attention to Democratic Elections Around the World
58 Pages Posted: 7 Jun 2017 Last revised: 11 Mar 2022
Date Written: June 5, 2017
We introduce the concept of monitoring costs to the study of international affairs: when the agenda of powerful states is crowded, other states can get away with behavior the powerful state would otherwise sanction. Our example focuses on the US as a liberal power promoting democratic elections. We use a game to demonstrate that greater monitoring costs by the `supervising' liberal power result in more cheating by foreign incumbents. The relationship holds as long as the US cares at least to some extent about democracy and the foreign state depends on the US. We proceed to develop a novel measure of monitoring by scraping relevant texts from Congress and the Presidency. We use the US domestic election cycle as a source of variation to monitoring costs. Because they need to focus on re-election, American policy-makers have less effort to devote to other policy objectives. We use our novel measure to demonstrate that there is less attention to foreign elections when American polls are proximate in time. We evaluate empirically the equilibrium prediction of more biased elections abroad as a result of less attention. We examine the universe of all 4,200 contests held between 1945 and 2020. We construct an index of bias to show the prediction holds: Presidential elections in the US are associated with more biased elections abroad. We conclude that international pressure may keep cheating incumbents in check.
Keywords: Sanctions, Democratization, U.S. foreign policy, Congress, Presidency, Political Business Cycles
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