International Relations

Language in Congress: Domestic Constituent Influence in Foreign Aid Decisions



There is an extensive literature on the effect of donor ideology on foreign aid allocations. However, the process through which donor ideology influences aid decisions is understudied. In my framework, legislators' application of political ideology is expanded to foreign aid agendas through interactions with domestic constituencies: development Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and private enterprises. Legislators adopt the constituencies' ideological rationale for aid and reflect the groups' aid preferences by taking on the language of those constituents. To test this argument, I applied the Structural Topic Model (STM) and Wordfish to my self-collected text data on testimonial statements given by representatives of NGOs and of firms and floor speeches of left- and right-leaning legislators relating to foreign aid in Congress. My results suggest that constituent groups have an influence on the ideological aid positions of individual legislators, which, in turn, may translate into the aid decisions of the donor country.


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