Public Opinions of Free Market, Democracy, and the US in Latin America

Eckstein, Nathan [Browse]
Senior thesis
120 pages


Centeno, Miguel [Browse]
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs [Browse]
Class year
Restrictions note
Walk-in Access. This thesis can only be viewed on computer terminals at the Mudd Manuscript Library.
Summary note
In the last two decades, US foreign policy toward Latin America has generally adhered to the same few overarching pillars, which have always included free-market promotion and democracy promotion. While comprehensive discourses engage anti- Americanism, the changing face of public diplomacy, and US missteps in Latin America, little is said about where how topics intersect. The present thesis engages this intersection through an analysis of the association of market-support and democracy-support with opinion of the US—and other foreign powers—through regional and country-level models, using time series survey data from 1995 to 2013 of the Latinobarómetro survey. I find that market-support relates positively with pro-Americanisms, while the relationship between democracy-support and pro-Americanisms is generally negative after 2000 and unique to the US. I hypothesize a framework for understanding the democracysupport/ pro-Americanism relationship based on a country’s (a) state of democracy and (b) level of discontent among citizenry about that country’s state of democracy. On a country-level, the association is most negative among high-democracy countries with high levels of discontent about democracy. The framework may shed light on the severe missteps of the US in 2003 regarding messaging the Iraq War, in addition to clarifying how high-level meetings among high-democracy Latin American countries differ in terms of remarks. The analysis—a foray into audience research—implies that (1) the US does not have a competitive advantage in terms of perception in Latin America, and (2) the way in which values affect pro-Americanism on average per citizen is differentiated across Latin America. The analysis also offers two recommendations for the US’ public diplomacy institution: (1) create and implement frameworks such as the one presented to systematize differentiated public diplomacy mission priorities within the region, and (2) prioritize finding another way to differentiate the US, and specifically, to compete with China.

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