Master of Arts (MA)


Political Science

Document Type



Empirical research on U.S. foreign policy has largely assumed that the president’s influence is subordinate to global and domestic political constraints. This idea is given further weight by the fact that, even within the political psychology literature, there is scant large-n, quantitative evidence supporting the notion that leaders matter. This study is an attempt to explore the influence of U.S. presidential psychological characteristics on foreign policy actions through assessment of two operational code constructs: “image of the political universe” (P-1), and “strategic preferences” (I-1). This is assessed through an extensive sample of operational code beliefs for every president from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush. The dependent variable of policy actions is measured with event data. Findings show that previous actions by the U.S. toward the Middle East, previous actions by Middle Eastern states toward the U.S., and the president’s perceived image of the political universe are significantly related to foreign policy outcomes. This supports the policy continuity argument that pre-existing policies influence U.S. policies in the present, the policy reciprocation/escalation argument that the U.S. is influenced by what other states do, and the psychological argument that elites influence outcomes based on their personal belief systems.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Mark Schafer