Taking It to the Extreme: The Effect of Coalition Cabinets on Foreign Policy

Juliet Kaarbo*, Ryan K. Beasley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Institutional constraints have been offered by some scholars as an explanation for why multiparty coalitions should be more peaceful than single-party cabinets. Yet others see the same institutional setting as a prescription for more aggressive behavior. Recent research has investigated these conflicting expectations, but with mixed results. We examine the theoretical bases for these alternative expectations about the effects of coalition politics on foreign policy. We find that previous research is limited theoretically by confounding institutional effects with policy positions, and empirically by analyzing only international conflict data. We address these limitations by examining cases of foreign policy behavior using the World Event/Interaction Survey (WEIS) dataset. Consistent with our observation that institutional constraints have been confounded with policy positions, we find that coalitions are neither more aggressive nor more peaceful, but do engage in more extreme foreign policy behaviors. These findings are discussed with regard to various perspectives on the role of institutions in shaping foreign policy behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-81
Number of pages15
JournalForeign Policy Analysis
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2008


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