The Yale Project On Japan’s Politics and Diplomacy Series presents:
Megumi Naoi, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of California, San Diego: “What Do Voters Learn from Foreign News? Emulation, Backlash and Public Support for Trade Agreements?”
This paper identifies voter-based mechanisms underlying why economic policies across countries do not converge to a single, successful model. We demonstrate that exposure to news about foreign government policies can change policy preferences of citizens through peer emulation and backlash against it. These heterogeneous responses arise due to citizens’ divergent predispositions about a foreign country being their “peer.” We test this argument with two coordinated survey experiments in Japan and Taiwan in 2015, which randomly assigned news reporting on the South Korea-China trade agreement and solicited support for their government signing an agreement with China. The results suggest that exposure to the news decreases opposition to a trade agreement with China by 6% points in Taiwan (“emulation”) and increases opposition around 8% points in Japan (“backlash”), and that respondents’ predispositions about peer countries account for the heterogeneity. Our findings suggest caution regarding the optimism about policy convergence across countries as technology lowers the cost of acquiring information.