Increasingly, the US State Department is relying on efforts of public diplomacy to improve America's image abroad. We test the theoretical efficacy of these efforts through an experiment. Participants were recruited in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. All but those participants randomly assigned to a control group read a quote about the US. We varied attribution of this quote to President Bush, an Ambassador, an ordinary American or to no one. We then asked respondents a battery of questions about their opinions of the US before and after a long discussion with other participants about the US. We find that the identity of the messenger matters, as those who read the quote attributed to Bush tended to have lower opinions of the US. After the discussion, these views partially dissipated. Post-discussion views were more heavily influenced by how other participants viewed the US. After controlling for the source and location of the discussion, when the discussion took place among people with more positive initial views of the US, views of the US improved. However, when there was a large range of views in the discussion, post-discussion views of the US were relatively worse. Based on this study, we suggest new directions for the conduct of public diplomacy.
- Public diplomacy,
- source effects,
- foreign policy
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/renan/15/