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The Domestic Fruits of Diplomacy: Mediation and Presidential Approval

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Abstract The notion that national leaders use foreign policy actions for domestic political benefit is widely accepted in the foreign policy literature, but has only been studied with regard to foreign policy involving the use of force. Literature on third-party mediation has emerged separately and has not taken mediators’ domestic political motivations and constraints into account when explaining mediation occurrence and outcomes. Diplomatic efforts such as mediation should be appealing to leaders seeking to impress their domestic audience because it provides them with a low risk opportunity to appear competent to their domestic audience. While mediation is a regular occurrence in US foreign policy, its public visibility varies greatly. However, models of presidential media coverage suggest that media outlets are likely to pay a disproportionate amount of attention to presidents and their high level surrogates while engaging in diplomacy overseas. The article proposes that the higher the profile of the official an administration sends to mediate a crisis overseas, the greater the increase in the president’s approval rating. Additionally, the public’s attentiveness to foreign policy should condition the effect of a high profile mediator on presidential approval. As foreign policy becomes more salient to the public, the effect of a higher profile mediator on presidential approval should be greater. Empirical results support the argument.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Political Science, University of Tennessee 1001 McClung Tower, Knoxville, TN 37996 USA


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