Seeing the Person for the Country? Foreign Leader Salience on the US Congress Floor
43 Pages Posted: 25 Mar 2021 Last revised: 7 Dec 2021
Date Written: February 22, 2021
Why do country leaders assume greater salience to outsiders in some - but not other, cases in international relations? The election interventions literature has argued that when the policy positions of candidates running in elections grow further apart, outsiders are more likely to back the candidates they find most congruent, by using direct support of a candidate (via promises of aid, for example) or by calibrating support for democratic processes in a country to make the victory of the preferred candidate more likely. We build on this research agenda to argue that policy polarization in a country will increase the salience of individual leaders to outside actors: it now literally makes a difference who will be in power. Noticing - and supporting leaders - becomes important. We test our argument about leader salience by scrap- ing speeches made on the floor of U.S. Congress. We show that policy divergence between the positions of candidates running in elections abroad gets them more personal recognition in Congress. We also show that leader mentions contain words that are associated with an interest in helping foreign leaders get elected. Our method and measure can help advance research on the importance of individuals in politics more broadly.
Keywords: Leaders, Election Interventions, US Congress, Named-Entity Recognition, NLP
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation