Public Diplomacy Increases Foreign Public Approval: A Regression Discontinuity Analysis
43 Pages Posted: 16 Apr 2020
Date Written: April 1, 2020
Although many governments invest significant resources to communicate directly with foreign publics, aiming to shape global affairs with “soft power” Nye (1990), we have little well-identified evidence that can tell us whether such “public diplomacy” campaigns are effective. In this research note, we estimate the impacts of an important type of public diplomacy that many governments deploy around the world: high-level visits by national leaders to other countries. We combine a novel data set of the official international travels of 15 leaders from 9 countries to 38 host countries over 11 years, with 32,456 individual-level responses to surveys administered in the host countries. Based on a date-of-interview regression discontinuity design, we estimate the degree to which leaders can sway foreign public opinion during their travels abroad. We find that high-level public diplomacy substantially increases approval and decrease disapproval, thereby strengthening a state’s international position.
Keywords: public diplomacy; high-level visits; soft power; public opinion
JEL Classification: C21, D74, D78, D83
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