Rallies and the â€œFirst Imageâ€
Despite considerable scholarship regarding the degree to which the international use of force generates popular rallies, no work has addressed the possibility that leadersâ€™ managerial philosophies and psychological predispositions systematically influence their assessments of whether or not diversion â€œworksâ€. In this article, we test hypothesesâ€”conceived through direct reference to work in political psychologyâ€”which suggest that the degree to which presidents are innately concerned with the maintenance of the American â€œin-groupâ€ is an important predictor of whether they scapegoat international â€œout-groupsâ€ and, by extension, whether they choose strategies of diversionary foreign conflict or more cordial foreign engagement when facing domestic problems. Several analyses of American foreign policy behavior for the period 1953â€”2000 produce findings that clearly are at odds with these hypotheses, in that in-group biased presidents are actually less likely to use force and more likely to attend superpower summits when faced with a poor economy. We believe that these unexpected findings have serious implications for both the psychological study of international conflict and the plausibility of the â€œtraditionalâ€ diversionary hypothesis.
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