Audience Costs

Competency and Coercion: The Effect of Leader Selection on Audience Cost Theory, pdf

Given a large literature predicting political punishment for leaders who fail to make good on international threats, why do we often observe leaders “backing down?” This paper argues that if citizens can select leaders based on their perceptions of the latter’s political competence, many of the behavioral predictions of audience cost theory are substantially weakened. The analysis of a formal model supports two claims. First, when domestic audiences select highly competent leaders, audience costs are never levied in equilibrium, even when leaders back down. When leaders are competent enough, audiences never prefer to punish them because they expect that a potential war resulting from the continuation of a crisis would have been a bad one. The finding that competent leaders are never punished with audience costs points to a second, counterintuitive, result: when they expect to face irresolute adversaries, domestic audiences may intentionally select less competent leaders precisely so that they can generate the expectation of audience costs. This result refines conditions under which audience costs exist and explicitly links the occurrence of war to domestic political competition.

Walk Like a Man: An Experimental Evaluation of Leader Experience as Costly Signal [with Joshua Blank], pdf

Building on the growing literature on leaders in international relations, in this project we address the question of how leader experiences shape voter evaluations of potential leaders’ “toughness.” Drawing from a theoretical literature on signaling, we utilize a survey experiment to examine the effect of both military experience and gender on respondent evaluations of leaders’ type. We first ask how military experience and gender interact to condition voters’ evaluations of a potential leader’s willingness to stand up to international adversaries, as well as how this evaluation affects candidate support. We find that while serving in the military increases respondents’ evaluations of female candidates’ crisis bargaining resolve, military service erases female advantages in other issue areas. Female veterans are also perceived less favorably than their civilian counterparts.