Default positions: What shapes public attitudes about international debt disputes?

Stephen C. Nelson, David A. Steinberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


This article examines public opinion toward sovereign debt disputes. Using evidence from multiple surveys fielded in Argentina-the country at the center of the most prominent legal dispute with foreign bondholders-we explore the sources of public support for debt repayment. Our evidence shows that economic self-interest and competing issue frames have little impact on attitudes toward debt repayment in Argentina. Individuals' opinions toward debt disputes are driven primarily by their longstanding symbolic attitudes. In particular, partisan identity and presidential approval provide the strongest predictors of attitudes toward debt repayment. We also show that partisanship has particularly strong effects for well-informed voters and in periods marked by abundant information about elite positions on this issue. This supports elite-cueing theories of public opinion. These findings may help explain why some governments refuse to settle economically costly disputes with their external creditors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)520-533
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Studies Quarterly
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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