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Aldrich, Sullivan, and Borgida: Foreign affairs and issue voting

Disclaimer. Don't rely on these old notes in lieu of reading the literature, but they can jog your memory. As a grad student long ago, my peers and I collaborated to write and exchange summaries of political science research. I posted them to a wiki-style website. "Wikisum" is now dead but archived here. I cannot vouch for these notes' accuracy, nor can I say who wrote them.

Aldrich, Sullivan, and Borgida. 1989. Foreign affairs and issue voting: Do presidential candidates 'waltz before a blind audience'?. APSR 83:123-41.

Main Point

Many scholars argue that (1) mass opinions about foreign issues are poorly formed and (2) these opinions do not decide elections. The literature sees a paradox, then: Why do presidents campaign on foreign affairs when the public doesn't respond to these issues? The authors contend that the public does, in fact, respond to foreign affairs issues.


According to the authors, there is little theoretical reason to expect large differences in the availability and accessibility of foreign and domestic issue attitudes. Foreign issues affect us as much as domestic issues (wars, trade, etc.).


See Fig 1, p 136:



The Availability of Foreign Policy Attitudes:

The Accessibility of Foreign and Defense Policy: Most Important Problems

Issue attitudes and candidates:

Foreign Policy Issues and the Vote:


Presidential candidates are right to spend time campaigning on foreign policy issues because attitudes about foreign issues influence voting choices just as much as attitudes about domestic issues. Political scientists were wrong to think that foreign issues didn't matter.

Research by the same authors

Research on similar subjects


Aldrich, John (author)Sullivan, John (author)Borgida, Eugene (author)American PoliticsVotingForeign PolicyInformationShortcuts

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