Third-Party Policymakers and the Limits of the Influence of Indicators

41 Pages Posted: 23 Jul 2018 Last revised: 8 Mar 2019

See all articles by Melissa Lee

Melissa Lee

Princeton University

Aila M. Matanock

Department of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley

Date Written: February 19, 2019


Global Performance Indicators (GPIs) serve many policy purposes, including setting agendas, shaping discourses, and permitting comparative judgment between rated entities. Yet these mechanisms are unlikely to provoke reform among states resistant to social pressure. In those cases, material power is an important tool of international influence. Do GPIs influence the application of material power? An important mechanism through which GPIs potentially shape rated state behavior is influencing third-party policymakers' decisions to employ their material power to press for change. We examine whether ranking states by corruption -- an important dimension of state fragility -- induces this type of pressure on offenders. We theorize that GPIs influence third-party policymakers through their ability to provide focal points and especially through the attention they draw to the best and worst cases on the particular issue area on which states are evaluated. We test this argument for a highly-visible GPI: Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index. We find that the states rated as the top ten most corrupt tend to appear in media reports about corruption while the next ten do not, and we leverage this finding to then compare outcomes among states on either side of this "threshold." While this GPI garners significant media attention, it does not appear to influence third-party policymakers' decision to shame or punish corruption offenders by changing the levels of foreign aid or types of foreign aid. Our results raise important scope conditions on the power of GPIs and suggest that their ability to alter state behavior through third-party pressure may be limited.

Suggested Citation

Lee, Melissa and Matanock, Aila M., Third-Party Policymakers and the Limits of the Influence of Indicators (February 19, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Melissa Lee

Princeton University

22 Chambers Street
Princeton, NJ 08544-0708
United States

Aila M. Matanock (Contact Author)

Department of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley ( email )

210 Social Sciences Building #1950
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States


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