Globalization, domestic politics, and transatlantic relations


For two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, globalization functioned as a unifying force in the West. In the absence of a common security threat, the United States and Europe found common ground in a neoliberal agenda calling for the freer movements of capital, goods, services, and peoples across national boundaries. Today, support for that neoliberal agenda has been rapidly weakening across the West. Drawing on a variety of quantitative measures, we show that Western support for globalization has declined, both at the level of national policy and at the level of party politics. We argue that this erosion of domestic support for globalization is closely linked to the rise of populist parties in Europe and the USA. We consider the implications of this shift in the West’s domestic politics for the future of transatlantic cooperation and leadership.

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Fig. 1

Sources MPD (Volkens et al. 2012); Dreher (2006), author calculations

Fig. 2

Source Dreher (2006), author calculations

Fig. 3

Source MPD (Volkens et al. 2012), author calculations

Fig. 4

Source MPD (Volkens et al. 2012), author calculations

Fig. 5

Source German Marshall Fund-US, Transatlantic Trends 2014, author calculations


  1. 1.

    In the limited space of this article, these arguments can only be modestly and incompletely developed, and the supporting empirical evidence only illustratively specified. However, together the arguments and illustrations provide a basis for reinterpreting how and why transatlantic cooperation has weakened in recent years.

  2. 2.

    Some have argued that the growth and integration of the world economy during the Cold War helps explain the collapse of the Soviet empire (Books and Wohlforth 2000).

  3. 3.

    A good example was the British Government’s Strategic Defence Review (1998).

  4. 4.

    Data in Fig. 1 are from Strezhnev and Voeten (2013).

  5. 5.

    The Manifesto database for the period 1970–2015 includes 455 parties. It includes all OECD polities, including all major US and EU-15 parties (242 in all). MPD codes party platforms by policy issue for individual political parties by election-year. We draw on the coded variables that entail a pro- and an anti-position taken on issues relevant to globalization. This allows us to measure the broad salience of globalisation in a party’s platform and also the level of support for and against globalisation in the party’s platform. For more details on MPD, see Vokens et al. (2012).

  6. 6.

    The EU-15 refers to the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, (West) Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

  7. 7.

    These three components (support for internationalism, free trade and European Union) are the only items in MPD that explicitly focus on positive and negative positioning on issues of extra-national engagement. For more details, see Burgoon (2009, 2013).

  8. 8.

    The ‘adjacent values’ are those outlier observations that fall outside the upper and lower quartiles defining the ‘interquartile range’ (IQR). This is, formally, observations that fall at or beyond the lower and upper whiskers, where: Lower whisker = Q1 − 1.5 IQR; and Upper whisker = Q4 + 1.5 IQR.

  9. 9.

    As The Economist (2016) put it, ‘Globalization is increasingly blamed for job losses, rising wage inequality and sluggish GDP growth’.

  10. 10.

    The figure is based on survey data from the German Marshall Fund and Chicago Council on Foreign Relations. Publics in the US and a cross-section of major European countries were asked: “Do you think that partnership in security and diplomatic affairs between the EU and the US should…become closer, remain about the same, or take a more independent approach”.


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Burgoon, B., Oliver, T. & Trubowitz, P. Globalization, domestic politics, and transatlantic relations. Int Polit 54, 420–433 (2017).

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  • Europe
  • USA
  • Globalization
  • Transatlantic relations
  • Populism