Buying Goodwill with Economic Exchange? Latin American Public Opinion and Elite Rhetoric toward the United States and China

David John Cupery, University of Colorado at Boulder


Why do the Latin American masses view the US and China so favorably, despite a history of US interventionism, recent fears about Chinese neocolonialism, and the relative absence of supportive elite rhetoric for either country? In this dissertation, I describe and explain Latin American public opinion and elite rhetoric toward the region’s most important external powers. I argue that these puzzling trends are best explained by a focus on bilateral economic exchange and the largely positive information that it transmits about exchange partners. It is objective experiences involving economic exchange, not interventionist foreign policies or elite framing that matters most for what the masses think about foreign great powers. In spite of mass favorability, elite criticism or silence towards the US or China can make sense, once external and top-down incentives are considered. I support these conclusions using cross-national surveys as well as original survey data and content analysis from Ecuador.