International crises and domestic politics

Alastair Smith

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Audience costs enable leaders to make credible commitments and to communicate their intentions to their adversaries during a crisis. I explain audience costs by simultaneously modeling crisis behavior and the domestic reelection process. I assume that a leader's ability influences the outcome of a crisis. As such, voters use outcomes as a signal of their leaders' quality. Leaders have incentives to make statements that deter their enemies abroad, since these statements also enhance their standing at home. Yet such "cheap talk" foreign policy declarations are only credible when leaders suffer domestically if they fail to fulfill their commitments. In equilibrium, false promises are only made by the least competent types of leaders. Leaders that break their promises suffer electorally. Because initial domestic conditions and institutional arrangements affect the vulnerability of leaders to these domestic costs, such factors influence the credibility of policy declarations and, therefore, the crisis outcome.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)623-638
    Number of pages16
    JournalAmerican Political Science Review
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - Sep 1998

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Political Science and International Relations


    Dive into the research topics of 'International crises and domestic politics'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this