Why do political leaders travel abroad? In this article, we propose an informational mechanism linking in-person diplomacy to leader survival. A foreign power visits an incumbent in order to reap a future policy concession; the visit is only worth the effort if the incumbent remains in power long enough to deliver on the deal. A diplomatic visit thus provides a visible and credible signal of the visitor's high confidence in the incumbent's stability in office. Domestic opponents, facing incomplete information as to the incumbent's strength, observe the signal and are deterred from mounting a challenge. Using data on U.S. diplomatic visits from 1960 to 2013, we find strong empirical support for our predictions: A visit with the U.S. president substantially reduces the risk of a leader's removal from office.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science
- Political Science and International Relations