Declarations of National Emergencies, Economic Sanctions, and the Unilateral Presidency: The Importance of Workflow in Research Projects


How do presidents communicate their decision to impose economic sanctions on a foreign actor? Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has increasingly relied on economic sanctions to elicit political change on its adversaries. Yet, while academic literature indicates mixed results in terms of sanction effectiveness, the United States continues to use sanction policies as a key foreign policy option. In addition, when they do decide to apply economic sanctions, we know relatively little about how presidents communicate sanction policies to the public. Using content analysis, we analyze an original dataset of executive-initiated sanctions from 1993 to 2012. We find that both domestic political and economic conditions affect the assertive tone of presidential rhetoric in sanction decisions. Beyond our empirical findings, we also detail a series of lessons learned during the research process. To help others avoid committing similar mistakes that we made during our project, we end this case study with several recommendations for good practices to maintain in carrying out a research project.

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