In this paper, we suggest that the Investment Model of Commitment, developed in social psychology, offers a solution to an important microfoundational issue in audience cost theory. Audience cost models are useful for thinking about the foreign policy behaviors of democratic and non-democratic states. However, they often assume that citizens reliably penalize leaders who break their foreign policy promises even though the empirical record suggests this is not always the case. We argue that public commitment to foreign policy assets and relationships is a precondition for the application of audience costs. Using the U.N. and NATO as case studies, we hypothesize that the commitments people develop to international organizations emerge as a function of (1) their satisfaction with the performance of the organization, (2) the investments in those organizations, and (3) an assessment of the alternatives to these associations. Correlational and experimental tests of the model confirm that the strongest individual-level commitments arise when people are highly satisfied with the performance of specific institutions, believe that much has been invested in support of them, and perceive that the alternatives to particular institutions are poor. Implications for the development of audience cost theory are discussed.

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