Matthew A. Baum

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I am a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) and Harvard University Department of Government. I am also Faculty Chair of the Harvard Public Diplomacy Collaborative.

My research addresses the evolving relationship between the mass media, public opinion and executive decision-making regarding foreign policy. Most experts would agree that the media do influence public opinion – through such processes as priming, framing, and agenda setting -- and that public opinion does, at least sometimes, influence policy outcomes.  Yet our understanding of the causal relationships between the media, public opinion and policy outcomes remains incomplete. And no theory to date accounts for how these relationships might evolve. Have modern media technologies and practices affected Americans' – and their counterparts in other democracies -- fascination with and tolerance for war?  And will their reactions influence (perhaps reducing) the willingness of democratic leaders to employ military force as a policy tool in the future, or how they do so? My research can be divided into two central parts, broadly motivated by these two questions.

The first part explores the effects of a changing mass media environment over the past several decades – with an emphasis on the rise of so-called “new media,” including the soft news media -- on public perceptions and attitudes regarding politics and foreign affairs. The second part considers the implications of changes in public awareness of and attitudes toward politics and foreign policy for executive decision-making, in the U.S. and more generally, and particularly in the realm of international conflict. For instance, I am currently investigating the implications of variations in Democratic electoral and media institutions on the relationships between mass media, public attitudes, and executive decision-making in potential conflict situations.

My research has appeared in a variety of academic journals, including American Political Science Review , Presidential Studies Quarterly, Journal of Conflict Resolution, American Journal of Political Science, International Studies Quarterly, Journal of Politics, Comparative Political Studies, Public Opinion Quarterly, Japanese Journal of Political Science, Political Communication, Conflict Management and Peace Science, International Organization and Political Behavior.

My first book -- Soft News Goes to War: Public Opinion and American Foreign Policy in the New Media Age was published in December 2003 by Princeton University Press. My second book, titled War Stories: The Causes and Consequences of Public Views of War (co-authored with Tim Groeling) was published in 2010, also by Princeton.  

I have also published a number of op-ed articles, book reviews, and book chapters, including an article based on "War Stories," published in the September 2010 issue of Nieman Reports ("Trust and Perception: Powerful Factors in Assessing News About War").

I have presented my research at the meetings of the Western, Southern, and Midwestern Political Science Associations, the International Studies Association, the Peace Science Society International and the Political Methodology Group, as well as at APSA (and numerous other venues). 

Courses I have taught include "Introduction to World Politics" (at undergraduate and graduate level,) "Mass Media, Public Opinion and Foreign Policy" (both as undergraduate and graduate seminars),  "Political Communication" (at undergraduate and graduate level), Research Design, "Domestic Sources of Foreign Policy" (graduate seminar), and "American Politics and Policy" (graduate level).

My Ph.D. dissertation advisors at UC San Diego were: David Lake (Chair), Neal Beck , Miles Kahler, Sam Kernell , Paul Papayoanou, and Michael Schudson.

For non-work-related stuff about me, see  my personal page.