Politics & Policy

Does Public Diplomacy Sway Foreign Public Opinion? Identifying the Effect of High-Level Visits

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

The project by Benjamin Goldsmith, Yusaku Horiuchi and Kelly Matush combines a dataset of the international travels of 15 leaders from nine 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.

Hosted by Jay Wang, director of the USC Center on Public Diplomacy (CPD) and associate professor at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

Who Will Benefit

– Those looking to understand the effectiveness of high-level visits by U.S. leaders to foreign countries
– Public diplomacy experts hoping to dig deeper into the role that media plays in international public approval
– Those who want to uncover how the positive correlation between foreign visits and public approval can influence future international relations

About Our Featured Faculty

Jay Wang is director of the USC Center on Public Diplomacy and an 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. Wang has written widely on the role of communication in the contemporary process of globalization. He is co-editor of the newly published book, Debating Public Diplomacy: Now and Next. He is the author of Shaping China’s Global Imagination: Nation Branding at the World Expo and several other books. He serves on the editorial board of the International Journal of Communication.