What Do Think Tanks Think?

Displeased Caucasian man protesting with multi-ethnic crowd of people on the streets.
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From Richard Hanania and Max Abrahms:

Through the use of survey methods, the study presents the first systematic comparison of America-based international relations professors to think tank employees (TTEs) in terms of their preferred conduct of the United States in international affairs. The difference between the two groups in their support for military intervention is stark. TTEs are 0.47 standard deviations more hawkish than professors based on a standard measure of militant internationalism (MI). Controlling for self-described ideology mitigates this effect although it remains statistically significant. Beyond quantifying their relative foreign policy preferences, this study helps to resolve why TTEs tend to assume more hawkish policies. The authors find evidence that hawkishness is associated with proximity to power. Professors who have worked for the federal government score higher on MI, as do TTEs based at institutions located closer to Capitol Hill. In general, the results point to a self-selection mechanism whereby those who favor interventionist policies are more likely to pursue positions to increase their policy influence, perhaps because they know that powerful institutions are more likely to hire hawks. Alternative explanations for differences, such as levels or kinds of foreign policy expertise, have weaker empirical support.

It remains remarkable to me how few people even ask such questions.  Both think tanks and foreign policy opinion remain critically understudied, at least in the appropriate serious ways and involving considerations of “public choice” (there is of course a massive dull literature on foreign policy opinion…if you think I am missing some massive literature that you know all about I suspect you do not grok what I actually am asking for).

And here is the Richard Hanania 2022 update.

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