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Measuring Soft Power Assets & Outcomes in Global Political Economy

Thu, August 31, 11:30am to 12:00pm, Hilton Union Square, Grand Ballroom


Most analyses of power suffer from erroneous post-hoc reasoning often asserting the effectiveness of power through a one-sided description of outcomes. The proliferating literature on softpower is not an exception.

This study separate and measures soft power causes or assets from their effects and demonstrates that softpower matters in global politics. According to Joseph Nye, soft power is “the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion or payments. It arises from the attractiveness of a country’s culture, political ideals and policies.” However, most studies on soft power are unable to suitably describe softpower assets or ascertain their influences.

This cross-sectional study operationalizes indicators that address the attractiveness of a country in economic, political and cultural terms to measure their effects on another set of political (influence at the UN), economic (attracting foreign direct investment) and cultural (attracting international students and tourists) variables. For the purposes of cultural assets, the study develops an original data set on cultural institutions.

After controlling for ‘hard power’ assets, the main conclusions of the study for softpower are as follows:

1. Political pluralism is a strong value and exercises institutional pull. High levels of democracy and low levels of political rights restrictions attract international students and tourists, foreign direct investment, and they moderate voting patterns at the United Nations. The latter aspect speaks to the use of soft power in public diplomacy.
2. Provision of foreign aid also has a positive influence on the influx of students, tourist, and FDI, and increases a country’s political influence
3. Citizen prosperity is attractive. Every 1% increase in per capita incomes acts as a soft power pull factor for anywhere from 0.35% to 0.98% increase in international students.
Cultural factors – the network of a country’s cultural institutions, global cultural rankings, and people’s Internet connectivity – are important for explaining inflow of students, tourists, and FDI.