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Leaders’ Foreign Travel and Democracy

Kodila-Tedika, Oasis and Khalifa, Sherif (2020): Leaders’ Foreign Travel and Democracy.

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Abstract

This paper examines whether the number of trips by a country's leader to the United States allows the country to adopt a more democratic system of governance and to embrace better democratic practices. To achieve its objective, the paper introduces a novel variable that indicates the number of trips by a leader or a head of a government to the United States of America from 1960-2015. The paper uses Panel estimation techniques to examine the effect of this variable on the Polity score and the Freedom House democracy indicator. The results show that the leader’s trips have a statistically significant and positive effect on democracy, especially during the cold war era. This is case using alternative econometric techniques and different democracy indicators. The results are also robust to the exclusion of observations and countries where the democracy score is higher than that of the United States. The paper also uses alternative techniques to deal with potential endogeneity and the possible persistence in democracy. The estimation provides evidence for a high level of persistence in democracy and confirms our previous findings that leader’s trips have a statistically significant positive effect on democracy.

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