"Most historians are probably unfamiliar with the concept of ‘audience costs’ despite its increasing importance to the field of international relations theory. Originally developed by James Fearon in a 1994 article in the American Political Science Review, and expanded upon by many other theorists over the last decades, audience costs became a central component in the political science literature on international crises and bargaining. The basic insight of this literature is that democracies have a distinct advantage over autocracies in international crises because of the fact that democratic political leaders cannot avoid paying a serious domestic cost if they fail to back up their threats or commitments. Since democratic states must pay a serious cost with their own public for backing down in a crisis, their threats to stand firm, unlike those of autocratic regimes, are much more credible and send a more powerful signal to their adversaries."
"Does the concept of audience costs help us account for the foreign-policy decisions of American policymakers at crucial moments in the Vietnam War?"
ISSF Forum on “Audience Costs and the Vietnam War”