Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2019

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Political Science

First Advisor

Carew Boulding

Second Advisor

Jennifer Fitzgerald

Third Advisor

Leila Gómez


Foreign policymakers have long since agonized over how citizens of foreign countries perceive the United States, and why. In the face of alleged American hegemonic decline, fears of so-called “anti-Americanism,” a term first popularized during the Cold War, have been rekindled by politicians, TV anchors, and students of international affairs alike. Does the world like Americans, how much or how little, and why? What determines mass attitudes towards the United States? While largely focused on Latin America in the ‘80s, research on the subject has since shifted to explaining hostility in the Middle East. This sea change has left contemporary investigation of the Latin American variant woefully out of date, although the region remains one of the United States’ most economically and culturally linked. Past analysis posits two leading hypotheses in explaining Latin American antipathy towards los yanquis. Is anti-Americanism the cause-and-effect result of aggressive, often violent, foreign policy decisions in the region? Or do citizens of foreign countries generally like the hegemon because of the associated benefits of market liberalization and economic exchange? In this article, I consult public opinion data from 15 countries in Latin America, finding that neither argument satisfactorily predicts attitudes towards the United States. Instead, I argue that it is a combination of economic exchange, elite rhetoric, and partisan polarization that influences these mass attitudes, highlighting the fundamental role of respondents’ political environments in cultivating antagonism, or affection, towards their Northern neighbor. I provide case study evidence consistent with this explanation, drawing on qualitative and quantitative observation to explain variation across the 15 countries.