Taking foreign policy personally: personal values and foreign policy attitudes

Brian C. Rathbun, Joshua D. Kertzer, Jason Reifler, Paul Goren, Thomas J. Scotto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Citations (Scopus)
94 Downloads (Pure)


Previous research shows that, when it comes to foreign policy, individuals have general orientations that inform their beliefs toward more specific issues in international relations. But such studies evade an even more important question: what gives rise to such foreign-policy orientations in the first place? Combining an original survey on a nationally representative sample of Americans with Schwartz’s theory of values from political psychology, we show that people take foreign policy personally: the same basic values that people use to guide choices in their daily lives also travel to the domain of foreign affairs. Conservation values are most strongly linked to “militant internationalism,” a general hawkishness in international relations. The value of universalism is the most important value for predicting “cooperative internationalism,” the foreignpolicy orientation marked by a preference for multilateralism and cosmopolitanism in international affairs. This relatively parsimonious and elegant system of values and foreign-policy beliefs is consistent across both high- and low-knowledge respondents, offering one potential explanation for why those people who are otherwise uninformed about world politics nonetheless express coherent foreign-policy beliefs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)124-137
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Studies Quarterly
Issue number1
Early online date18 Feb 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Feb 2016


  • foreign policy
  • international relations
  • political psychology


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