School of American and Global Studies Faculty Publications with a Focus on History, Philosophy, Political Science, and Religion
Selling the Iran Nuclear Agreement: Prospect Theory and the Campaign to Frame the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action
This paper examines the Obama administration's arguments for ratifying the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) to limit Iran's nuclear capabilities and whether these claims encouraged U.S. senators to approve the agreement. The analysis relies on Kahneman and Tversky's (1979) prospect theory in which more risk is taken to avoid certain loss and improve conditions when options are framed in terms of losses rather than gains. We argue that the Obama administration was able to persuade Democratic senators to support the JCPOA by arguing the agreement had the potential to curb the development of nuclear weapons by the Iranian regime. But more importantly, the administration was able to frame the status quo as a certain loss, and thus, the risk associated with the JCPOA was acceptable in comparison to not adopting the agreement. Our analysis of the Obama administration's lobbying efforts and the Democratic senators' statements in support of the agreement demonstrate the value of applying prospect theory to understanding decision making with respect to American foreign policy formulation.
Congress & the Presidency
DOI of Published Version
Hager, Lisa; Oindrila, Roy; Hancock, Landon C.; and Ensley, Michael J., "Selling the Iran Nuclear Agreement: Prospect Theory and the Campaign to Frame the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action" (2019). School of American and Global Studies Faculty Publications with a Focus on History, Philosophy, Political Science, and Religion. 45.