State Visits and Leader Survival

Matt Malis, Alastair Smith

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    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.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)241-256
    Number of pages16
    JournalAmerican Journal of Political Science
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Jan 2021

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Political Science and International Relations


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