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Economic Downturns and Hardline Public Opinion

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Objective: With an aim of extending the scope of group threat theory from within-country tensions between racial groups to international economic competition, this study specifically examined the impacts of perceived relative economic status of an in-group country on attitudes about contentious political issues with a rival out-group country. Methods: Two survey experiments were administered, both of which manipulated Japanese participants’ perceptions of the relative economic powers of Japan and South Korea. Results: When Japanese perceive that their country's economic power is declining relative to South Korea's economy, they demonstrate more hardline attitudes about territorial and historical issues between the two countries. Conclusion: This study demonstrates the applicability of group threat theory to bilateral international relations. It also suggests that public opinion about international conflicts is a function of the long-term rebalancing of economic power, which cannot be easily influenced by short-term policies.




Kobayashi, T., Madrid-Morales, D., Asaba, Y., & Tago, A. (2020). Economic Downturns and Hardline Public Opinion. Social Science Quarterly, 101(1), 309–324.

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