Democratic Openings and Country Visibility: Media Attention and the Allocation of US Democracy Aid, 1975-2010

James M. Scott, Charles M. Rowling, Timothy M. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Late in the twentieth century, the United States embraced democracy promotion as a foreign policy priority, a central component of which involved allocating democracy aid to governments, political parties, and nongovernmental organizations around the world to support and encourage democratization. Nonetheless, as a scarce resource, democracy assistance is allocated selectively: Some states receive substantial commitments while others receive none. As previous studies have concluded, democracy aid allocations are, in part, strategic bets placed on the likelihood of progress toward and consolidation of democracy, as donors consider cues that identify situations where democracy aid is likely to be most successful. We introduce the role of media coverage as a key factor in democracy aid allocations and argue that a shift toward democracy within a potential recipient state interacts with media attention to that state to generate cues for aid allocators. To gauge the agenda-setting and cueing effects of media coverage on democracy aid allocations, we examine US democracy assistance from 1975 to 2010, weighing the impact of media attention, democratic openings, and other factors related to recipient characteristics and US political, strategic, economic, and ideational interests on democracy assistance. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of these findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)373-396
Number of pages24
JournalForeign Policy Analysis
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations


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