Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science

Document Type



This dissertation examines U.S. presidential learning—defined as a change in presidential operational code beliefs due to their experiences in office—in the foreign policy decision-making context. These beliefs are teased out from presidents’ representations of power relationships via verb usage in their speeches. A database of more than 4,000 foreign policy-related speeches obtained by the author was employed for this project, and with this data, I examine several potential dynamics of and influences on learning.

I look at trends in belief change over time, and examine the relative stability and interconnectedness of “core” versus “peripheral” beliefs. I then test the influence of factors in both the domestic and foreign realms and in various “policy domains” on monthly belief change. Additionally, I examine the impact of crises on belief change in both the short- and longer-terms. I follow this by an analysis of pre-existing beliefs and crisis-related factors as influences on belief change following crises. Finally, I look at the impact of belief change on policy behavior itself. Based upon the accumulation of evidence provided here, presidents do not appear to behave as “smooth transmission belts” between the political environment, belief change, and subsequent policy behavior as anticipated by structural realists.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Schafer, Mark