Judit Trunkos

Date of Award

Spring 2020

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Political Science

First Advisor

Robert H. Cox


We have learned about democracies’ peaceful behaviour but we know relatively little about why some democracies are more peaceful and use more soft power instruments than others. I argue that contrary to competing theories that link soft power use to budget size or institutions, it is the variation in the public’s social trust that drives the variation in peaceful behaviour. Individual’s social trust toward peaceful foreign policies are shaped by their core beliefs about trusting other people, which vary across democracies. I argue that leader’s with more trusting populations will be more likely to use soft power instruments becasue they can generate more public support for peacful actions effectively.

My mixed method approach first statistically evaluated social trust’s role in the selection of soft power actions relative to hard power actions using regression analyses of fifty-one democratic countries over the time period of 1995-2010. My analysis revealed that even though social trust is positively correlated with soft power use, it was not a statistically significant indicator. The quantitative analysis pointed to the perception of geopolitical threat. Using a most similar case design of Finland and New Zealand, my qualitative analysis found that Finland uses high soft power due to the Russian geopolitical threat. Further my crucial case design of the U.S found that in addition to geopolitical threat, in the case of the U.S. the desire to be global leader is also a boosting factor in its soft power use. These findings indicate that scholars should pay more vi attention to democracies’ geopolitical differences to understand their foreign policies and more attention should be paid to understanding how and why country’s construct their foreign policies.