Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Political Science


Dr. Donald E. Abelson


While there has been a significant amount of scholarship on think-tanks in the United States, attention to these same organizations in the European Union has been scant. In particular, there has been a dearth of scholastic treatment of think-tanks operating with an EU-level mandate within Brussels, which this study has termed supranational think-tanks. This study pursued an original comparative analysis between both of these diverse think-tank models. In particular, the principal research questions guiding this study concern the differences that exist between these think-tank models and, more importantly, why these divergences have manifested. In terms of their differences, it was revealed that American and supranational think-tanks diverge through three principal aspects: their roles, priorities, and main constituencies. In offering an explanation as to why these differences have emerged, this study pinpointed two principal variables: institutional credibility and political culture. From an institutional perspective, supranational think-tanks have been afforded an inherent credibility by the institutions of the EU, and have therefore been able to direct their resources and efforts to those activities and outputs in which they have a comparative advantage and can add value to the EU policy-making community. American think-tanks, on the other hand, do not have such institutional credibility, and therefore need to provide evidence of their credibility to their main constituencies, especially in making their case for funding. Further, for American think-tanks, an adversarial and individualistic political culture has informed the ambit of think-tank norms and activities, while the consensus-driven and collectivist political culture of Europe has similarly impacted supranational think-tanks.