Presidential Succession and the Cold War: An Analysis of Soviet-American Relations, 1948-4988

William J. Dixon, Stephen M. Gaarder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


This study examines the effects of presidential succession on selected patterns of American foreign policy behavior. Our empirical test case consists of the principal foreign policy preoccupation of the last eight presidencies—diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union. This examination is conducted in the context of a partial theory of dynamic foreign policy interaction which serves as a kind of theoretical template through which the potentially varying effects of successive presidential administrations are given precise empirical interpretations. Our central results suggest that U.S. foreign policy behavior exhibits a characteristic persistence that seems relatively immune from the potentially disruptive effects of presidential succession. Presidential administrations do appear to be associated with periodic shifts in long-term behavioral tendencies toward friendlier or more hostile relations, but there are no detectable systematic differences in the way administrations regularly build on their own past behavior or in the way they respond to Soviet actions. We also undertake a descriptive analysis of individual presidencies in order to highlight those few cases that deviate from the general Cold War pattern.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)156-175
Number of pages20
JournalThe Journal of Politics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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