The Effects of Electoral Concerns on Presidential Foreign Policy: The Case of Ronald Reagan

Christopher S. Randolph, Jr.

Abstract


Although previous scholarship indicates that foreign policy has only a minimal impact on voter behavior, contemporary research suggests voters do act upon their foreign policy preferences. Recognizing voters’ policy concerns, political leaders have frequently modified their foreign policy positions to mitigate electoral vulnerability. Ronald Reagan’s policies offer an example of such a shift. Reagan maintained hawkish positions toward Central America and the Soviet Union for most of his first term but, sensing public concern over such policies, adopted more conciliatory foreign policy positions, especially towards the Soviet Union, to reduce potential vulnerabilities in preparation for his 1984 reelection campaign. Notably, Reagan did not return to more aggressive policies following his reelection. Reagan’s foreign policy shift demonstrates the impact that public opinion and domestic politics may have on foreign relations.

Keywords


Presidency

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15695/vurj.v2i0.2734

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