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Surviving Nixon: The Politicization of Domestic and Foreign Policy, 1969-1974

  • Author(s): Manson, Andrew Hobson
  • Advisor(s): Ansell, Christopher
  • et al.


Surviving Nixon: The Politicization of Domestic and Foreign Policy, 1969-1974


Andrew Hobson Manson

Doctor of Philosophy in Political Science

University of California, Berkeley

Professor Christopher Ansell, Chair

This dissertation examines politicization in domestic and foreign policy making, using approaches that are largely quantitative, including survival analysis and text-as-data methods, and the Nixon administration (1969-1974) as its central case. Politicization – the placement of political loyalists into the executive bureaucracy and the use of political criteria or pressures to retain them – is an important way modern presidents have attempted to control an increasingly large and complex institutional environment. Studies of presidential politicization have only in recent years become data-driven, supported by a growing number of datasets on the executive branch. This dissertation adds to that growth, first, by assembling a previously unavailable dataset on tenure for Nixon officials and advisors, including covariates for individual characteristics and the agencies in which they serve. Second, it assembles a unique corpus of documents from the Foreign Relations of the United States series, programmatically pre-processing them to make them available for computational analysis.

Using these tenure and textual data, this study finds that politicization, while an important dimension of official and advisor control under Nixon, is contingent and conditioned on several factors. Among these are the informational resources available to an official or advisor, which stem from characteristics of the agency in which she serves. Such characteristics include the agency’s robustness, its number of high-competence positions, and how specialized its policy product is. A second key factor, anticipated by the long literature on the “two presidencies,” is the domain of policy (domestic or foreign) an official is responsible for. In domestic policy, robust agencies with access to private, policy-relevant information tend to be politicized on the basis of conventional left-right ideology, while coordinating agencies are not. In foreign policy, left-right ideology is deployed when officials differ from the President over preferred policy instruments; otherwise, such “instrumental” preferences are more influential than left-right ideology.

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