Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Political Science & Public Administration


The major focus of this paper concerns defining congressional issue dimensions towards the American foreign assistance programs of 1979 to 1982. The resulting dimensions serve as a foundation to identify coalitions of congressmen who support or oppose different aspects of foreign aid policies. Previous foreign aid vote studies have usually divided congressmen into pro and con camps or placed them along activist-restrained continuums. This study, however, is based on the assumption that foreign aid policy has become too complex for such divisions and that its dimensions center more around the types of aid, the purposes of aid, and the ideological leanings of the intended recipients.

Roll-call votes were initially sorted into dimensions by a factor analysis procedure. These results were used to construct issue dimension indexes for both houses of Congress for the 95th and 96th Congresses. For each data set the results produced two groups of indexes, one concerning funding questions and the others concerning policy questions. The funding dimensions were assumed to encompass the compromises that were necessary in order to produce passable legislation. These dimensions were considered important because they could be used to identify congressmen who support or oppose foreign aid on a general level. The policy question dimensions, on the other hand were assumed to show two simplified positions towards foreign aid issues. At one end of the policy dimension are those mostly concerned with fostering private enterprise and using force to protect the status quo and American interests. Called traditionalists, these members consider foreign aid to be useful if it enables the Unites States to make a strong response to the spread of communism. The opposite side was labeled the prodevelopment position and consisted of those who view the capitalism-versus-communism-socialism world view as over-simplistic. They are more likely to favor international cooperation in solving the Third World problems that make countries susceptible to communism. The major basis for congressional decision-making appears to be the ideological inclinations of recipient governments. The traditional group directs aid to right-wing governments and the prodevelopment group aims aid at moderate and left-leaning nations.

The coalitions which supported the traditional and prodevelopment positions were identified by regression equations which included ideology, party, region, median income, and urban-rural variables. The major finding was that liberals were always more likely prodevelopment and conservatives more likely traditional. The importance of ideology tends to add credence to the theory that congressmen view foreign and domestic issues from the same set of beliefs. Although party was a significant factor only half the time its importance was found to be related to the pull of presidential loyalty considerations. Regional, urban-rural and constituency income factors were found to be of little or no importance in identifying coalitions.