Leaders, Perceptions, and Reputations for Resolve

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Lupton, Danielle


Grieco, Joseph
Buthe, Tim

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For scholars of international relations, reputation for resolve - the belief that an actor will stand firm in future disputes - has served as a seminal explanation for the outcome of interstate crises. Scholars studying state reputation remain divided as to which characteristics of the state determine reputation for resolve. Recent scholarship questions this traditional state-centric view of international relations, indicating leaders can be as influential as states in international affairs. My dissertation investigates whether individual leaders can develop reputations for resolve independently from the states they serve. In doing so, my dissertation bridges the state-centric and leader-centric literatures, contributing to our understanding of both reputations for resolve and the impact of individual leaders on international politics. My theory focuses on reputation development as I examine which information decision-makers use to make assessments of resolve. As leaders are the primary arbiters of foreign policy and interact substantially with each other during international crises and negotiations, I conclude that leaders should be able to develop independent reputations for resolve based on their behavior while in office. I further theorize that, due to the ways in which individuals access and process information, a leader's early actions while in office will matter more in assessments of his/her resolve, making initial reputations difficult to change.

To test my theory against alternative hypotheses, I employ a multi-methods research design using experimental surveys, statistical duration analysis, and a historical case study. The experiments focus on the internal causal mechanisms by which individuals process information to make predictions of a leader's resolve. To test the external validity of my theory, I employ a duration analysis to examine how the resoluteness of a leader's response to a crisis helps prevent that leader from being a target of future crises. Finally, the case study uses process tracing methods to investigate the extent to which individual leaders develop reputations for resolve over time. Through these multiple methods, I find robust evidence that leaders do develop reputations for resolve independently from their state's reputation. The experiments indicate that leader behavior is influential on perceptions of resolve even when accounting for state-based characteristics. Furthermore, I find that participants are more likely to seek out and prioritize leader-based information. I also find that early perceptions of resolve have a significant impact on later perceptions. The duration analysis indicates that the resoluteness of a leader's behavior can affect his/her risk of future crisis onset. Finally, the case study shows that potential challenger leaders do take leader-based information into account when making assessments of resolve and that a leader's early behavior is particularly influential to the development of his/her reputation for resolve. Based on this evidence I conclude that leaders can develop reputations for resolve. These reputations are primarily based on a leader's statements and behavior, even when controlling for state-based variables, and are resistant to change once formed.





Lupton, Danielle (2014). Leaders, Perceptions, and Reputations for Resolve. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/8738.


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