Does the level of public support for democracy promotion tools (military intervention, sanctions, and aid) vary with the characteristics of potential autocratic targets? The scarce existing studies exploring the determinants of public support for democracy promotion have focused primarily on the citizens’ attitudes underpinning it and on the costs of different policy tools. The characteristics of target countries and how they affect individuals’ choice of different foreign policy tools remain under-examined. In this experimental study we report a conjoint design on a sample of U.S. citizens (n=1464) that manipulates several core characteristics of potential autocratic targets. The findings show that respondents support the use of coercive measures (military action and sanctions) precisely in contexts where these instruments are less likely to foster democratization: oil-rich, exclusive regimes with no elections, with personalistic rulers, and with no ties to the U.S. In contrast, the characteristics driving public support for the use of foreign assistance are more consistent with the existing cross-national evidence on its effectiveness: autocratic regimes with (semi)competitive elections with links to the West.
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