Matthew A. Baum

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Playing to the Crowd: Public Opinion and the Initiation of Trade Sanctions


Scholars have pondered how and when economic sanctions regime can be effective.   Nations impose economic sanctions for reasons of both policy and politics.   Sanctions may serve policy goals, by pressuring a target state to pursue policies preferred by the sanctioning state or states.   And sometimes sanctions are indeed designed to maximize their capacity to induce a change in the target state' behavior.   Yet, while analysts have now recognized the importance of domestic economic interests on trade sanctions, how they are perceived and when they are demanded by the populace has largely been ignored. In fact, sanctions can also serve politicians domestic political goals.   And sometimes they are designed primarily to gain political capital at home. Finally, for many, perhaps the majority, of international disputes, sanctions are never even considered.   How can we determine when sanctions are likely to be proposed or implemented, or when any such sanctions will be designed to serve primarily political, as opposed to policy goals?   This paper argues that one important determinant of the existence and efficacy of incidence and composition of trade sanctions is the policy's salience for the domestic population.   We develop a series of hypotheses concerning when and how public salience will influence trade sanctions. We then test our hypotheses against all U.S. sanction proposals between 1971 and 1998.   Our findings indicate that domestic public scrutiny is associated with more and stronger trade sanctions, but that this relationship is conditioned by a variety of domestic and international political and economic circumstances.


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