Hostname: page-component-7d684dbfc8-tqxhq Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-09-25T11:11:58.741Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "corePageComponentGetUserInfoFromSharedSession": true, "coreDisableEcommerce": false, "coreDisableSocialShare": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForArticlePurchase": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForBookPurchase": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForElementPurchase": false, "coreUseNewShare": true, "useRatesEcommerce": true } hasContentIssue false

The Power of Compromise

Proposal Power, Partisanship, and Public Support in International Bargaining

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 November 2020

Get access


In an era of increasingly public diplomacy, conventional wisdom assumes that leaders who compromise damage their reputations and lose the respect of their constituents, which undermines the prospects for international peace and cooperation. This article challenges this assumption and tests how leaders can negotiate compromises and avoid paying domestic approval and reputation costs. Drawing on theories of individuals’ core values, psychological processes, and partisanship, the author argues that leaders reduce or eliminate domestic public constraints by exercising proposal power and initiating compromises. Employing survey experiments to test how public approval and perceptions of reputation respond to leaders’ strategies across security and economic issues, the author finds attitudes toward compromise are conditioned by the ideology of the audience and leader, with audiences of liberals being more supportive of compromise. In the US case, this results in Republican presidents having greater leeway to negotiate compromises. The article’s contributions suggest that leaders who exercise proposal power have significant flexibility to negotiate compromise settlements in international bargaining.

Research Article
Copyright © Trustees of Princeton University 2020

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Ahn, Taehyung. 2011. “Politics at the Water’s Edge: The Presidency, Congress, and US Policy toward North Korea.Pacific Focus 26, no. 3: 336–59. At Scholar
Anderson, Sarah E., Butler, Daniel M., and Harbridge-Yong, Laurel. 2020. Rejecting Compromise: Legislators’ Fear of Primary Voters. New York, N.Y.: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Barlow, Christina. 1940. The Agadir Crisis. Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press.Google Scholar
Berinsky, Adam J. 2007. “Assuming the Costs of War: Events, Elites, and American Public Support for Military Conflict.Journal of Politics 69, no. 4: 975–97. At Scholar
Berinsky, Adam J., Huber, Gregory A., and Lenz, Gabriel S.. 2012. “Evaluating Online Labor Markets for Experimental Research:’s Mechanical Turk.Political Analysis 20, no. 3: 351–68. At Scholar
Berinsky, Adam J., Margolis, Michele F., and Sances, Michael W.. 2014. “Separating the Shirkers from the Workers? Making Sure Respondents Pay Attention on Self-Administered Surveys.American Journal of Political Science 58, no. 3: 739–53. At Scholar
Brewer, Paul R. 2001. “Value Words and Lizard Brains: Do Citizens Deliberate about Appeals to Their Core Values?Political Psychology 22, no. 1: 4564. At Scholar
Brutger, Ryan. 2020a. “Replication files for: The Power of Compromise: Proposal Power, Partisanship, and Public Support in International Bargaining.” Harvard Dataverse, V1. At Scholar
Brutger, Ryan. 2020b. “Supplementary material for: The Power of Compromise: Proposal Power, Partisanship, and Public Support in International Bargaining.” At Scholar
Brutger, Ryan, and Kertzer, Joshua D.. 2018. “A Dispositional Theory of Reputation Costs.International Organization 72, no. 3: 693724. At Scholar
Brutger, Ryan, and Rathbun, Brian. Forthcoming. “Fair Play? Equity and Equality in American Attitudes towards Trade.International Organization.Google Scholar
Cavari, Amnon. 2013. “Religious Beliefs, Elite Polarization, and Public Opinion on Foreign Policy: The Partisan Gap in American Public Opinion Toward Israel.International Journal of Public Opinion Research 25, no. 1: 1–22. At Scholar
Chapman, Terrence L., Johannes, Urpelainen, and Wolford, Scott. 2013. “International Bargaining, Endogenous Domestic Constraints, and Democratic Accountability.Journal of Theoretical Politics 25, no. 2: 260–83. At Scholar
Chaudoin, Stephen. 2014. “Promises or Policies? An Experimental Analysis of International Agreements and Audience Reactions.International Organization 68, no. 1: 235–56. At Scholar
Cohen, Geoffrey. 2003. “Party Over Policy: The Dominating Impact of Group Influence on Political Beliefs.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 85, no. 5: 808–22. At ScholarPubMed
Cowen, Tyler, and Sutter, Daniel. 1998. “Why Only Nixon Could Go to China.Public Choice 97, no. 4: 605–15. At Scholar
Davies, Graeme A. M., and Robert Johns. 2013. “Audience Costs among the British Public: The Impact of Escalation, Crisis, Type, and Prime Ministerial Rhetoric.International Studies Quarterly 57, no. 4: 725–37. At Scholar
Druckman, James N. 2001. “On the Limits of Framing Effects: Who Can Frame?Journal of Politics 63, no. 4: 1041–66. At Scholar
Entous, Adam, and Dagher, Sam. 2013. “U.S. Talks Tough on Syria, Ramps Up Attack Planning.Wall Street Journal, August 25. At ticles/syria-agrees-to-un-inspection-of-alleged-chemical-attack-1377437136, accessed September 23, 2020.Google Scholar
Fearon, James D. 1994. “Domestic Political Audiences and the Escalation of International Disputes.American Political Science Review 88, no. 3: 577–92. At Scholar
Fingleton, John, and Raith, Michael. 2001. “Open Covenants, Privately Arrived At.” CEPR Discussion Paper no. DP2709. London, UK: Center for Economic Policy Research. At Scholar
Gartzke, Eric, and Lupu, Yonatan. 2012. “Still Looking for Audience Costs.Security Studies 21, no. 3: 391–97. At Scholar
Gearan, Anne, Karen DeYoung, and Will Englund. 2013. “Syria Says it ‘Welcomes’ Russia Proposal on Chemical Weapons.” Washington Post, September 9. At paigns-for-world-to-support-military-strike-against-syria/2013/09/09/e8ad7a72-193d-11e3-80ac-96205cacb45a_story.html, accessed September 23, 2020.Google Scholar
Gigerenzer, Gerd. 2008. “Why Heuristics Work.Perspectives on Psychological Science 3, no. 1: 2029. At ScholarPubMed
Golec, de Zavala, Agnieszka, Aleksandra Cislak, and Wesolowska, Elzbieta. 2010. “Political Conservatism, Need for Cognitive Closure, and Intergroup Hostility.Political Psychology 31, no. 4: 521–41. At Scholar
Guisinger, Alexandra, and Saunders, Elizabeth N.. 2017. “Mapping the Boundaries of Elite Cues: How Elites Shape Mass Opinion Across International Issues.International Studies Quarterly 61, no. 2: 425–41. At Scholar
Guisinger, Alexandra, and Smith, Alastair. 2002. “Honest Threats: The Interaction of Reputation and Political Institutions in International Crises.Journal of Conflict Resolution 46, no. 2: 175200. At Google Scholar
Gutmann, Amy, and Thompson, Dennis F.. 2014. The Spirit of Compromise: Why Governing Demands It and Campaigning Undermines It, revised ed. Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Haas, Nicholas, and Khadka, Prabin B.. 2020. “If They Endorse It, I Can’t Trust It: How Outgroup Leader Endorsements Undercut Public Support for Civil War Peace Settlements.” American Journal of Political Science: 1-19. At Scholar
Hermann, Charles F. 1990. “Changing Course: When Governments Choose to Redirect Foreign Policy.International Studies Quarterly 34, no. 1: 321 At Scholar
Herrmann, Richard K., Tetlock, Philip E., and Visser, Penny S.. 1999. “Mass Public Decisions to Go to War: A Cognitive-Interactionist Framework.American Political Science Review 93, no. 3: 553–73. At Scholar
Holsti, Ole R., and James N. Rosenau. 1993. “The Structure of Foreign Policy Beliefs Among American Opinion Leaders—After the Cold War.Millennium: Journal of International Studies 22, no. 2: 235–78. At Scholar
Holsti, Ole R., and James N. Rosenau. 1996. “Liberals, Populists, Libertarians, and Conservatives: The Link between Domestic and International Affairs.International Political Science Review 17, no. 1: 2954. At Scholar
Hummel, Patrick. 2010. “Flip-Flopping from Primaries to General Elections.Journal of Public Economics 94, no. 11-12: 1020–27. At Scholar
Hurwitz, Jon, and Peffley, Mark. 1987. “How are Foreign Policy Attitudes Structured? A hierarchical model.American Political Science Review 81, no. 4: 1099–120. At Scholar
Huth, Paul K. 1988. Extended Deterrence and the Prevention of War. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
Imai, Kosuke, Keele, Luke, Tingley, Dustin, and Yamamoto, Teppei. 2010. “Causal Mediation Analysis Using R.” In Vinod, Hrishikesh D., ed., Advances in Social Science Research Using R. New York, N.Y.: Springer-Verlag: 129-54.Google Scholar
Jost, John T. 2017. “Ideological Asymmetries and the Essence of Political Psychology.Political Psychology 38, no. 2: 167208 At Scholar
Jost, John T., Federico, Christopher M., and Napier, Jaime L.. 2009. “Political Ideology: Its Structure, Functions, and Elective Affinities.Annual Review of Psychology 60: 307–37. At 600.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Jost, John T., Jack, Glaser, Kruglanski, Arie W., and Sulloway, Frank J.. 2003. “Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition.Psychological Bulletin 129, no. 3: 339–75. At ScholarPubMed
Jost, John T., Napier, Jaime L., Hulda, Thorisdottir, Gosling, Samuel D., Palfai, Tibor P., and Ostafin, Brian. 2007. “Are Needs to Manage Uncertainty and Threat Associated with Political Conservatism or Ideological Extremity?Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 33, no. 7: 9891007. At ScholarPubMed
Kertzer, Joshua D., and Ryan Brutger. 2016. “Decomposing Audience Costs: Bringing the Audience Back into Audience Cost Theory.American Journal of Political Science 60, no. 1: 234–49. At Scholar
Kertzer, Joshua D., and Thomas Zeitzoff. 2017. “A Bottom-Up Theory of Public Opinion about Foreign Policy.American Journal of Political Science 61, no. 3: 543–58. At Scholar
King, Carolyn, and Mauldin, William. 2016. “TransCanada Starts Legal Actions Over Keystone XL Pipeline Denial.Wall Street Journal, January 6. At https: // -pipeline-denial-1452120281, accessed September 23, 2020.Google Scholar
Kremer, John M. D., and David Mack. 1983. “Pre-emptive Game Behaviour and the Emergence of Leadership.British Journal of Social Psychology 22, no. 1: 1926. At Scholar
Kydd, Andrew. 1997. “Game Theory and the Spiral Model.World Politics 49, no. 3 (April): 371400. At Scholar
Landler, Mark. 2012. “Obama Threatens Force Against Syria.” New York Times, August 20. At -threatens-force-against-syria.html, accessed September 23, 2020.Google Scholar
Lee, Carol E., and Entous, Adam. 2012. “Obama Warns Syria on Chemical Weapons, President Threatens Military Response Against Any Use of the Banned Arms.” Wall Street Journal, August 20. At 00872396390443713704577601820343918852, accessed September 23, 2020.Google Scholar
Leng, Russell J. 1993. “Reciprocating Influence Strategies in Interstate Crisis Bargaining.Journal of Conflict Resolution 37, no. 1: 341. At Scholar
Levendusky, Matthew S., and Horowitz, Michael C.. 2012. “When Backing Down is the Right Decision: Partisanship, New Information, and Audience Costs.Journal of Politics 74, no. 2: 323–38. At Scholar
Levy, Jack S., McKoy, Michael K., Paul, Poast, and Wallace, Geoffrey P. R.. 2015. “Backing Out or Backing In? Commitment and Consistency in Audience Costs Theory.American Journal of Political Science 59, no. 4: 9881001. At Scholar
Neil, Malhotra, Margalit, Yotam, and Hyunjung Mo, Cecilia. 2013. “Economic Explanations for Opposition to Immigration: Distinguishing Between Prevalence and Conditional Impact.American Journal of Political Science 57, no. 2: 391410. At Scholar
Mansfield, Edward D., and Mutz, Diana C.. 2009. “Support for Free Trade: Self-Interest, Sociotropic Politics, and Out-Group Anxiety.International Organization 63, no. 3: 425–57. At Scholar
Maoz, Ifat, Andrew, Ward, Michael, Katz, and Ross, Lee. 2002. “Reactive Devaluation of an ‘Israeli’ vs. ‘Palestinian’ Peace Proposal.Journal of Conflict Resolution 46, no. 4: 515–46. At Scholar
Mason, Lilliana. 2015. “I Disrespectfully Agree: The Differential Effects of Partisan Sorting on Social and Issue Polarization.American Journal of Political Science 59, no. 1: 128–45. At Scholar
Jared, McDonald, Croco, Sarah E., and Turitto, Candace. 2019. “Teflon Don or Politics as Usual? An Examination of Foreign Policy Flip-Flops in the Age of Trump.Journal of Politics 81, no. 2: 757–66. At Scholar
Mo, Jongryn. 1995. “Domestic Institutions and International Bargaining: The Role of Agent Veto in Two-Level Games.American Political Science Review 89, no. 4: 914–24. At Scholar
Morgenthau, Hans J. 1948. Politics among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace, 1st ed. New York, N.Y.: Alfred A. Knopf.Google Scholar
Mutz, Diana C., and Kim, Eunji. 2017. “The Impact of In-Group Favoritism on Trade Preferences.International Organization 71, no. 4: 827–50. At Scholar
Nicholson, Stephen P. 2012. “Polarizing Cues.American Journal of Political Science 56, no. 1: 5266. At ScholarPubMed
Research, Pew. 2013. “Public Backs Diplomatic Approach in Syria, but Distrusts Syria and Russia.Pew Research Center, September 16. At -but-distrusts-syria-and-russia/, accessed September 23, 2020.Google Scholar
Report, Polling. 2014. “President Obama and the Obama Administration.” At, accessed September 23, 2020.Google Scholar
Poole, Keith T. 2007. “Changing Minds? Not in Congress!Public Choice 131: 435–51. At Scholar
Potter, Philip B. K., and Baum, Matthew A.. 2010. “Democratic Peace, Domestic Audience Costs, and Political Communication.Political Communication 27, no. 4: 453–70. At Scholar
Potter, Philip, and Baum, Matthew. 2014. “Looking for Audience Costs in all the Wrong Places: Electoral Institutions, Media Access, and Democratic Constraint.Journal of Politics 76, no. 1: 167–81. At Scholar
Quek, Kai. 2017. “Type II Audience Costs.” Journal of Politics 79, no. 4. At Scholar
Rathbun, Brian C. 2007. “Hierarchy and Community at Home and Abroad: Evidence of a Common Structure of Domestic and Foreign Policy Beliefs in American Elites.Journal of Conflict Resolution 51, no. 3: 379407. At Scholar
Rathbun, Brian C., Kertzer, Joshua D., Jason, Reifler, Paul, Goren, and Scotto, Thomas J.. 2016. “Taking Foreign Policy Personally: Personal Values and Foreign Policy Attitudes.International Studies Quarterly 60, no. 1: 124–37. At Scholar
Rathbun, Brian C., Kertzer, Joshua D., and Paradis, Mark. 2017. “Homo Diplo-maticus: Mixed-Method Evidence of Variation in Strategic Rationality.International Organization 71, no. S1: S33S60. At Scholar
Ross, Lee. 1995. “Reactive Devaluation in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution.” In Arrow, Kenneth J., Mnookin, Robert H., Lee Ross, Amos Tversky, and Wilson, Robert, eds., Barriers to Conflict Resolution. New York, N.Y.: W. W. Norton & Co.: 26-42.Google Scholar
Saunders, Elizabeth N. 2015. “War and the Inner Circle: Democratic Elites and the Politics of Using Force.Security Studies 24, no. 3: 466501. At Scholar
Schelling, Thomas C. 1980. The Strategy of Conflict. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Schultz, Kenneth. 2005. “The Politics of Risking Peace: Do Hawks or Doves Deliver the Olive Branch?International Organization 59, no. 1: 138. At Scholar
Schwartz, Joshua A., and Blair, Christopher W.. 2020. “Do Women Make More Credible Threats? Gender Stereotypes, Audience Costs, and Crisis Bargaining.” International Organization: 1-24. At Scholar
Schwartz, Shalom H. 2012. “An Overview of the Schwartz Theory of Basic Values.Online Readings in Psychology and Culture 2, no. 1. At Scholar
Sink, Justin. 2014. “Panetta: Obama’s ‘Red Line’ on Syria Damaged US Credibility.The Hill, October 7. At netta-obamas-red-line-on-syria-damaged-us-credibility, accessed September 23, 2020.Google Scholar
Slantchev, Branislav L. 2006. “Politicians, the Media, and Domestic Audience Costs.International Studies Quarterly 50, no. 2: 445–77. At Scholar
Snyder, Jack, and Borghard, Erica D.. 2011. “The Cost of Empty Threats: A Penny Not a Pound.American Political Science Review 105, no. 3: 437–56. At Scholar
Stasavage, David. 2004. “Open-Door or Closed-Door? Transparency in Domestic and International Bargaining.International Organization 58, no. 4: 667703. At Scholar
Stillinger, Constance A., Epelbaum, M., Dacher, Keltner, and Ross, Lee. 1990. “The Reactive Devaluation Barrier to Conflict Resolution.” Manuscript, Stanford University. Cited in Ifat Maoz, Andrew Ward, Michael Katz, and Lee Ross 2002, “Reactive Devaluation of an ‘Israeli’ vs. ‘Palestinian’ Peace Proposal,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 46, no. 4: 515–46. At Scholar
Tang, Shiping. 2005. “Reputation, Cult of Reputation, and International Conflict.Security Studies 14, no. 1: 3462. At Scholar
Tarar, Ahmer, and Leventouğlu, Bahar. 2013. “Limited Audience Costs in International Crises.Journal of Conflict Resolution 57, no. 6: 1065–89. At https:// 22002712459713.Google Scholar
Tomz, Michael. 2007. “Domestic Audience Costs in International Relations: An Experimental Approach.International Organization 61, no. 4: 821–40. At Scholar
Tomz, Mike, and Van Houweling, Robert. 2012. “Political Repositioning—Detailed Synopsis.” At, accessed September 24, 2020.Google Scholar
Trachtenburg, Marc. 2012. “Audience Costs: An Historical Analysis.Security Studies 21, no. 1: 342. At Scholar
Trager, Robert, and Vavreck, Lynn. 2011. “The Political Costs of Crisis Bargaining: Presidential Rhetoric and the Role of Party.American Journal of Political Science 55, no. 3: 526–45. At Scholar
Trubowitz, Peter, and Mellow, Nicole. 2005. “'Going Bipartisan': Politics by Other Means.Political Science Quarterly 120, no. 3: 433–53. At Scholar
Van Vugt, Mark. 2006. “Evolutionary Origins of Leadership and Followership.Personality and Social Psychology Review 10, no. 4: 354–71. At ScholarPubMed
Voss, James F., and Post, Timothy A.. 1988. “On the Solving of Ill-Structured Problems.” In Chi, Michelene T. H., Robert, Glaser, and Farr, Marshall J., eds., The Nature of Expertise. Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
Weeks, Jessica L. 2008. “Autocratic Audience Costs: Regime Type and Signaling Resolve.International Organization 62, no. 1: 3564. At Scholar
Wolak, Jennifer. 2020. Compromise in an Age of Party Polarization. New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press. Yarhi-Milo, Keren. 2013. “Tying Hands Behind Closed Doors: The Logic and Practice of Secret Reassurance.” Security Studies 22, no. 3: 405–35. At Scholar
Supplementary material: PDF

Brutger supplementary material


Download Brutger supplementary material(PDF)
PDF 414 KB
Supplementary material: Link

Brutger supplementary material