In this paper, I evaluate two competing perspectives regarding what underlies the public’s support for democracy promotion—a democratic values-based perspective positing that the public’s support for democracy promotion is based on a principled desire to spread American values, beliefs, and ideologies to other countries, and a national interests-based perspective claiming that it is based on a rational desire of Americans to advance the US’ political and economic interests abroad. Using a survey experiment, I find that, in general, Americans are not driven by either democratic values or national interests to support democracy promotion even though they believe that democracy promotion is in the interests of both the recipient country and the United States. Only a subset of the population is motivated to support democracy promotion for the sake of democratic values. This subset of the population is driven by cosmopolitanism—that is, a sense of concern for the welfare of those living in other countries and a sense of moral responsibility to promote democracy abroad derived from the US’ position as a world leader, not national pride.
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The author would like to thank Steve Smith and the Weidenbaum Center at Washington University in St. Louis for their support in conducting the survey experiment, as well as Ingrid Anderson, Ian MacMullen, and Bob Shapiro for their helpful comments and advice on this project. This project was funded by a Weidenbaum Center grant.
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Brancati, D. The Determinants of US Public Opinion Towards Democracy Promotion. Polit Behav 36, 705–730 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11109-013-9256-y
- Democracy promotion
- Public opinion
- Survey experiment