Foreign policy begins at home: the local origin of support for US democracy promotion

William Christiansen, Tobias Heinrich, Timothy M. Peterson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Citizens hold opinions about what kinds of foreign policy their government should pursue. Because foreign policy often has geographically specific domestic consequences, we expect opinions to vary with the locality of its impact. In this article, we examine whether individual support for US foreign policy to promote democracy abroad depends on exactly where the policy’s domestic impact will occur. We expect individuals to favor policies that bestow local benefits while opposing those that impose local costs. Accordingly, we argue that support for proposed democracy aid grants will be higher when such aid benefits local firms and organizations. Conversely, we expect that opposition to proposed economic sanctions in the form of development aid cuts will be higher when the associated domestic costs stemming from lost jobs fall locally. Using the results from an original survey experiment, we find evidence that a positive local impact of aid increases support for and reduces opposition to democracy promotion, while a negative local impact of sanctions reduces indifference and increases opposition to punitive policy in the case of democratic backsliding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)595-616
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Interactions
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 4 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Aid
  • democracy promotion
  • experiments
  • foreign policy
  • sanctions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations


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