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Running on Foreign Policy? Examining the Role of Foreign Policy Issues in the 2000, 2002, and 2004 Congressional Campaigns



While there is a long, rich tradition of scholarship on the impact of foreign policy on presidential campaigns and elections, the question of the role of foreign policy concerns in congressional elections has been left largely unexplored. This is particularly surprising given that scholars have in recent years highlighted the significant impact of Congress on American foreign policy both as an institution and as the result of the foreign policy activism of individual members. This earlier research indicates that the role of foreign policy in congressional campaigns and elections deserves much more attention than it has so far received. In this project, we examine the use of foreign policy in the 2000, 2002, and 2004 congressional campaigns, analyzing the issue content of television advertisements produced by candidates seeking election to the US House of Representatives. We find that across the three election cycles, foreign policy issues became much more prominent over time but still remained a modest part of candidates' appeals to potential voters. We also find differences between candidates rooted in partisan identification and perceptions of policy performance on key foreign policy issues, and strong indications that candidates emphasize foreign policy issues that have significant local impact.