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Foreign Policy and the Evaluation of Presidential Candidates

Miroslav Nincic and Barbara Hinckley
The Journal of Conflict Resolution
Vol. 35, No. 2, Democracy and Foreign Policy: Community and Constraint (Jun., 1991), pp. 333-355
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/174150
Page Count: 23
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Foreign Policy and the Evaluation of Presidential Candidates
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Abstract

This article applies recent work on social cognition to examine the impact of foreign policy on presidential elections, particularly on the evaluation of incumbent candidates. The authors propose that specific issue evaluations shape the public's overall evaluation of candidates and that the overall evaluation in turn shapes the public's voting decision. This two-step hypothesis is tested with aggregate and individual-level data for both foreign policy and economic evaluations of incumbent performance and for the very different elections of 1980 and 1984. The results support the hypothesized two-step process at both aggregate and individual levels of analysis and for all categories of party identifiers. Foreign policy issues not only shape public evaluation of candidates but their influence does not compare unfavorably with that of economic circumstances. The results provide new evidence that the outcome of presidential elections is influenced, albeit indirectly, by foreign policy.

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