Human rights and the 1980 U.S. presidential election

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Due to dramatic developments in international affairs and the starkly diverging foreign policy visions of the two candidates, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, foreign policy occupied a usually prominent role in the 1980 U.S. presidential election. A central component of the foreign policy debate was the appropriate role for human rights concerns in American foreign relations. Nevertheless, neither historians of U.S. presidential elections nor historians of human rights have devoted much attention to the issue. This article represents the first comprehensive study of the role of human rights in the 1980 U.S. presidential election. First, it examines the role of human rights in the foreign policy visions of the presidential candidates, focusing especially on Reagan’s criticism of Carter’s human rights policy. Second, it assesses the impact the issue of human rights had on the 1980 election and the way the 1980 election shaped the role of human rights in U.S. foreign policy.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)
  • History


  • Human rights, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, The 1980 presidential election, U.S. foreign policy
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-46
Number of pages18
JournalAmerican Studies in Scandinavia
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Publication categoryResearch