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Cultural Affinities, Regime Type, and Foreign Policy Opinion Formation


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Principal Investigator(s):

Bethany Lacina
University of Rochester
Email: blacina@ur.rochester.edu
Home Page: http://www.bethanylacina.com/

Charlotte Lee
Hamilton College
Email: clee@hamilton.edu
Home Page: https://sites.google.com/site/charlotteplee/

Sample size: 1162
Field period: 2/23/2008 - 3/3/2008

 

Abstract:

Studies of threat perception and ethnocentrism suggest that foreign policy opinions stem from factors such as stereotypes of other countries and trust in other cultures. This is in contrast to the claims of democratic peace theory, which posits that regime type drives security-related foreign policy opinions and outcomes. However, prior studies have only tangentially assessed how an individual’s tolerance of other cultures – which is known to have an important effect on domestic political views – affects his/her foreign policy preferences. Located at the intersection of political psychology and international relations, this proposed study explores the role of region-specific cultural biases on individual citizens’ perceptions of security threats and seeks to disentangle this effect from the impact of knowledge of regime type.

Hypotheses:

Hypothesis R1: Respondents are more likely to perceive a foreign country as a threat if told that country is non-democratic compared to being told it is democratic.

Hypothesis R2: Respondents are less likely to perceive the government of a foreign country is trustworthy if told that country is non-democratic compared to being told it is democratic.

Hypothesis C1: Respondents are more likely to perceive a foreign country as a threat if told that:
C1a: ... many people in that country practice Islam compared to being told that many people practice Christianity.
C1b: ... many people in that country practice Hinduism compared to being told that many people practice Christianity.
C1c: ... many people in that country practice Islam compared to being told that many people practice Hinduism.

Hypothesis C2: Respondents are less likely to perceive the government of a foreign country is trustworthy if told that
C2a: ... many people in that country practice Islam compared to being told that many people practice Christianity.
C2b: ... many people in that country practice Hinduism compared to being told that many people practice Christianity.
C2c: ... many people in that country practice Islam compared to being told that many people practice Hinduism.

Experimental Manipulations:

Regime type: democratic / non-democratic
Dominant religion in a given country: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism

Key Dependent Variables:

Degree of trust in a foreign government
Degree of threat perceived by a foreign government

Summary of Findings:

Two statistically significant findings reveal a contingent effect for both treatments. First, democracies were perceived as less threatening, conditional on a Christianity cue. Second, respondents were more likely to trust a government if informed of widespread Christianity or Hinduism in that country, conditional on a democracy cue. Neither regime type nor cultural cues alone determined perceptions of threat or expressions of trust, suggesting the need for a more syncretic approach to understanding the microfoundations of public foreign policy opinion formation.

References:

Lacina, Bethany. and Lee, Charlotte. "Democracy and Culture Matter: A test of threat perception, trust, and foreign policy opinion formation in the U.S." Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association 67th Annual National Conference, The Palmer House Hilton, Chicago, IL, Apr 02, 2009.


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