The World's "Exceptional" Neighbor: Comparative Perspectives on American Exceptionalism in Presidential Discourse and the Effects at Home and Abroad
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This dissertation examines the idea of American exceptionalism from both production and effects perspectives. First, it identifies the distinct ways that U.S. presidents have articulated this idea in major domestic and international speeches. To address these questions it examines how U.S. presidents articulated American exceptionalism in speeches since World War II. Second, it examines the effects of these types of messages, relative to what we might call "non-exceptional" emphases, among the American public. The study draws on social psychological work on national attachment to identify the cognitive dimensions of impressions about America and how these relate to U.S. citizens' interpretations and reactions to messages containing exceptionalism themes. Looking specifically at U.S. citizens helps to uncover whether emphasis on American exceptionalism is distinctly impactful, whether it activates certain cognitive structures embedded in the psyches of U.S. adults, and whether it influences how citizens understand foreign countries or compels them to support specific foreign policies over others. Third, because these messages regularly reach beyond U.S. borders it was important to explore their reception among international audiences. The present dissertation is the first step in this examination as it explores the impacts of this very American idea on a Mexican student population. Specifically, it examines the effects American exceptionalism messages on Mexican perceptions of their own country, the United States, and on their attitudes regarding policies toward the United States. In sum, the types of exceptionalistic messages presented by presidents and their effects on both domestic and foreign audiences are the foci in this dissertation.
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