My research, which is at the intersection of international relations and public policy, examines how international politics are shaped by states’ domestic politics. By focusing on states as the main unit of analysis, the field of IR has advanced the understanding of how individual countries compete and cooperate with one another in the international system. However, states have internal actors whose disparate preferences, if overlooked, can lead to an incomplete picture of interstate dynamics and decisions. Therefore, in my projects, I build off on and add to extant IR literature by unpackaging domestic politics and investigating how citizens’ preferences are formed and when they change state behaviors at the international level.
Dissertation: Domestic Politics and International Bargaining
My dissertation and book project, “Domestic Politics and International Bargaining,” theoretically and empirically explores under what conditions domestic politics affects how leaders bargain in international settings. According to conventional wisdom, a leader’s public statement can help states tackle asymmetric information about resolve and intention, which is a major cause of conflict in international bargaining. This hinges on a strong assumption that citizens dislike broken promises and always politically punish a leader if she reneges on a publicly stated foreign policy commitment. Relaxing the assumption, this project develops a formal model that fully specifies when citizens politically punish their leader and when this punishment makes the leader fulfill her public statement.
In the model, voters form preferences based on not only whether their leader’s actions match her words, but also what policy consequences her actions bring and how complex or salient the policy is to them. The model’s results show that a leader sometimes chooses not to carry out her public statement since voters can both support their leader for backing down and punish her for following through. Comparative statics results also show that as an issue becomes more complex or salient to citizens, they become more supportive of their leader’s decisions. Thus, the model suggests that a leader’s public commitment might not help states overcome asymmetric information––and consequently avoid conflict––in international bargaining. In addition, relating to audience cost theory, while it has been understood that the leader’s public commitments matter in complex high-stakes settings such as international crises, this model suggests that these are the very situations in which audience costs are unlikely to effectively tie leaders’ hands.
In an empirical chapter, I undertake a survey experiment to test four implications derived from the theory. I hypothesize that voters become more supportive of the leader if there is an increase in H1) the policy benefit of the leader’s action, H2) issue complexity, H3) issue salience, or H4) the political punishment cost. The dependent variable is operationalized with survey respondents’ approval for a leader’s actions. Given that I test multiple predictions to draw inference for each hypothesis and for the theory as a whole, I use the non-parametric combination (NPC) method, which uses formal functions to combine relevant tests into a global p-value. The method is also adequate for an analysis with multiple tests since it accounts for potential Type I and II errors. The NPC methods yield strong support for hypotheses regarding the policy benefit and issue complexity. When all hypotheses are combined to draw a global conclusion, the NPC results in a p-value of .0001 and rejects the global null in favor of the overarching theory.
After empirically testing the domestic model of audience costs, I embed it into an international setting to investigate when the leader publicly commits once challenged and how a foreign counterpart perceives such a commitment. The preliminary results show that, contrary to conventional understanding of international bargaining, a leader under certain conditions will back down more often when (s)he commits than when she does not. In such cases, the foreign challenger perceives the leader’s commitment as a sign of a greater likelihood of backing down, thereby escalating a crisis.
Working paper 1: Microfoundation of Diversionary War
I explore another commonly assumed voter behavior – the “rally ‘round the flag” effect. This assumption is the basis of an influential IR idea called “diversionary war theory,” which suggests that leaders facing domestic criticism tend to escalate international crises in order to divert domestic attention. In this project, I argue that a leader can gamble for resurrection by using diversionary tactics not only when she cares highly about her office, but also when she has little to lose. Rather than assuming increased public support for the diversionary leader, I allow voters to make decisions based on their calculation of the leader’s marginal political cost. The model’s results show that voters rarely “rally ‘round the flag” when a leader with low support diverts domestic attention to conflicts. As in the dissertation’s model, a state’s foreign policy decision in this paper also results from strategic feedback between voters and their leader.
Working paper 2: Domestic Incentives of Multilateral Aid
Another way I look into domestic politics to explain leaders’ international choices is to examine the extent to which a leader translates constituents’ preferences into policy decisions when they have well-defined policy positions. In “Rethinking Multilateralism – Domestic Incentives of Multilateral Aid,” I study how responsive economically conservative leaders are to conservative constituents’ aversion to foreign aid. I highlight that donors’ national interests tend to be more strategically tied to bilateral aid than to multilateral aid over which they have less control. Moreover, foreign aid is hardly an important policy that determines the political fate of a leader. Therefore, I argue that if leaders were to implement a foreign aid policy consistent with their constituents’ preferences, they would adjust only multilateral aid. I use panel-corrected standard error (PCSE) for aid commitment, and autoregressive distributed lag (ADL) for aid disbursement to account for potential differences in the short- and long-term impacts. In both analyses, I find that only multilateral types decrease under right-leaning leaders. While some argue that states use multilateral aid to share the burden of assisting less developed countries, this paper suggests that a leader who has multiple issues to handle and has an informational advantage over voters may turn to multilateralism as a way to nominally reflect voter preferences.
Working progress 1: Within-subject Experimental Design in Political Science (with Adam Glynn)
This is a methodological paper in which we discuss the advantages of the within-subject experimental design (e.g. crossover experiment) over the between-subject experimental design (e.g., random vignette study) in political science.
Working progress 2: What Political Cover? - The Role of International Courts in Territorial Disputes
Territorial disputes exemplify contentious issues over which states struggle to find a bargaining agreement. In this paper, I investigate why states sometimes deviate from the status quo and bring matters to international courts, despite potential domestic domestic political opposition to the courts’ rulings.