New data provides insight into foreign-policy changes during leadership transition

A new data set from researchers at Rice University and the University of California-Berkeley will allow international relations scholars to study the extent to which different types of foreign-policy change are associated with different types of leader transitions within countries.


Ashley Leeds, a professor of political science at Rice, and Michaela Mattes, a professor of political science at the University of California-Berkeley, developed the Change in Source of Leader Support (CHISOLS) data set, which was introduced in a recent article in the Journal of Peace Research. The data set covers all 169 countries with a population of more than 500,000 and 2,412 leaders from 1919 to 2008.

CHISOLS identifies which leadership changes within countries bring to power a new leader whose primary support is drawn from different societal groups than those that supported a predecessor.

“This data set will allow us to investigate the extent to which foreign-policy change is influenced by the domestic political interests of societal groups that bring leaders to power and help them to maintain power,” Leeds said.

Leeds and Mattes hope that research using this new data set will help academics better predict changes in foreign policy and understand institutional factors that help maintain foreign-policy consistency in light of domestic political change.

The data collection was supported by National Science Foundation grant SES-0921781 “Collaborative Research: Interests, Institutions and Foreign Policy Change.” The database is available online at

About Amy McCaig

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.