Although many governments invest significant resources in public diplomacy campaigns, there is little well-identified evidence of these efforts’ effectiveness. This research presentation examines the impacts of a major type of public diplomacy: high-level visits by national leaders to other countries.

The project by Benjamin GoldsmithYusaku Horiuchi and Kelly Matush combines a dataset of the international travels of 15 leaders from 9 countries over 11 years, with worldwide surveys administered in 38 host countries. By comparing 32,456 respondents interviewed just before or just after the first day of each visit, the study shows that visiting leaders can increase public approval among foreign citizens. The effects do not fade away immediately and are particularly large when public diplomacy activities are reported by the news media. In most cases, military capability differentials between visiting and host countries do not appear to confer an advantage in the impact of public diplomacy.

These findings suggest that public diplomacy has the potential to shape global affairs through soft power. The findings of this project will be published in a forthcoming article in American Political Science Review.

About our panelists:

Benjamin E. Goldsmith

Benjamin E. Goldsmith is a Professor in the School of Politics and International Relations, Australian National University. His research areas include international conflict, international public opinion, and atrocity forecasting.

Yusaku Horiuchi

Yusaku Horiuchi is a Professor of Government and Mitsui Professor of Japanese Studies at Dartmouth College. His research focuses on foreign public opinion, elections, diversity, Japanese politics, and political methodology.

Jian (Jay) Wang

Jian (Jay) Wang (moderator) is Director of the USC Center on Public Diplomacy and Associate Professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. He previously worked for the international consulting firm McKinsey & Company, where he advised clients on matters of communication strategy and implementation across a variety of industries and sectors.

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