Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Political Science

Committee Chair(s)

Anna Pechenkina


Anna Pechenkina


Austin Knuppe


Josh Ryan


This paper explores the relationship between a foreign threat and the behavior of members of Congress. Understanding how members of Congress respond to potentially threatening international situations can provide important insight into foreign policy and future responses to new threats. I use information about how legislators vote, their ideology and party, and the topic of legislation to measure how liberal or conservative members of Congress are on foreign policy legislation. This allows me to analyze both how members of Congress behave inside their parties and how they interact with the other party, or in other words, intraparty cohesion and interparty polarization.

I find that the parties moderate their positions on foreign policy (relative to all other issues) when a foreign threat is present and the majority in Congress will approach foreign policy from a more moderate angle than the minority party at times of foreign threat; these effects, however, are substantively modest. I also find that party members agree amongst themselves less on foreign policy than on other issues. My results indicate that internal party behavior and interactions between parties are not strongly affected by the presence of a foreign threat.