Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


International Studies (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Joseph Parent

Second Committee Member

Roger Kanet

Third Committee Member

Robert Shapiro

Fourth Committee Member

Joseph Uscinski


Armed, unmanned aerial vehicles have been an increasingly important tool of US foreign policy since the George W. Bush era, and emerged as the Barack Obama administration’s weapon of choice. Some say drone strikes are necessary to reduce American casualties abroad and protect lives at home, while others argue they terrorize communities and violate the sovereignty of states throughout the world. Meanwhile, the American public has consistently supported this controversial tactic, while most of the world – including close US allies – oppose it. In this dissertation, I analyze congressional rhetoric, presidential rhetoric and mainstream TV news content regarding the use of drones from 2000 through 2015 and compare the results to nationally representative surveys that measure support and opposition for drone strikes. The findings show a significant relationship between the frequency and types of messages espoused by elites and media, and US public opinion. This result has important implications for the democratic process and the origins of Americans’ perception of the use of force, and shows support for both framing effects and indexing theory.


Drone Strikes; Public Opinion; Indexing; Framing; Agenda Setting