APSA 2017 San Francisco

Event date: 
Wednesday, August 30, 2017 - 22:00

Check out the Breaking News Panel "The Legitimacy of Elections: Russia, Fraud, and Public Confidence in the Electoral Process" at 10 am on Friday at APSA. FT: R. Alvarez, Nikolay Marinov Svolik, Milan, Sarah Bush, Lauren Prather Eric SCHICKLER. Thanks, Susan Hyde for putting the panel together.

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APSA 2017 Panel Proposal by Marinov was accepted by Division 13: Politics of Communist and Former Communist Countries (2nd choice was - Division 38: Political Communication) 

Panel Title: The Political Economy and Effectiveness of Modern Authoritarian Propaganda

Papers:

Title: How Manipulating Economic News Shapes Government Reputation: Evidence from Russia's State Controlled Media

Author: Arturas Rozenas, NYU

Abstract: It is commonly believed that autocratic governments have an incentive to censor negative news and amplify positive news. Using a simple formal model, I argue that such simplistic censoring may have only a very limited effect when people can easily benchmark the official news against their own subjective perceptions. Such mechanism most clearly applies in the domain of economic news because personal economic welfare provides a clear benchmark against which the official news can be evaluated. In such instances, the state controlled media does not engage in outright censoring but instead manipulates the responsibility assignment for the negative and positive events. Using a large corpus of daily news reports from three national television channels in Russia from 2000 to 2016, I identify three patterns that are consistent with this theoretical insight: First, the Russian media reports negative economic news at about the same rate as the positive ones. Second, when news are negative, they are increasingly likely to implicate external factors, and when the news are positive they are increasingly likely to implicate the domestic government. Third, the state propaganda is most effective in swaying the public opinion when the state of the economy is objectively good.

Title: Censorship and the Effectiveness of Propaganda

Author: Carlo Horz

Abstract: Scholarship on propaganda generally assumes that propaganda is more effective when the propagandist enjoys a monopoly over communication, i.e., when there is effective censorship. However, this may not always be true: if an audience knows that a regime is censoring alternative views, it may be more suspicious of regime statements. By contrast, an audience with access to outside information may expect the regime to be constrained and therefore expend less effort scrutinizing the regime's claims. To elucidate the relationship between propaganda and censorship, I build a game-theoretic model in which an audience member must choose how much costly effort to expend in assessing regime statements by proposing alternative explanations for a given phenomenon. I derive the conditions under which censorship helps, and those under which it hurts propaganda. I discuss the results in reference to various empirical cases.

Title: The Pathology of Propaganda

Author: Haifeng Huang, UC Merced

Abstract: Is propaganda effective in sustaining authoritarian rule? The previous literature has found that propaganda often does not change citizens' actual opinion of the government, but can signal the regime's power and capacity of control. This study hypothesizes that many propaganda messages are so pretentious and “nauseating” that, although they can signal the regime's power, in terms of the public's hearts and minds they can actually backfire and worsen citizens' opinion and support of the regime. The ongoing propaganda campaign and cult of personality in China provides an excellent opportunity to test this hypothesis. Preliminary results from a survey experiment show that citizens exposed to heavy-handed propaganda messages report lower levels of satisfaction with China's current situations, higher interesting in moving abroad, and sometimes even lower level of support for the anti-corruption campaign. such messages also make people dislike propaganda more, but at the same time, reduce their willingness to participate in protests. Thus, the short term benefit of demonstrating the government's power through propaganda may come at a cost of a long term decay of government legitimacy. Hence the pathology of propaganda.

Title: How the Chinese Government Fabricates Social Media Posts for Strategic Distraction, not Engaged Argument

Authors: Gary King, Jennifer Pan, Margaret E. Roberts

Abstract: The Chinese government has long been suspected of hiring as many as 2,000,000 people to surreptitiously insert huge numbers of pseudonymous and other deceptive writings into the stream of real social media posts, as if they were the genuine opinions of ordinary people. Many academics, and most journalists and activists, claim that these so-called "50c party" posts vociferously argue for the government’s side in political and policy debates. As we show, this is also true of the vast majority of posts openly accused on social media of being 50c. Yet, almost no systematic empirical evidence exists for this claim, or, more importantly, for the Chinese regime’s strategic objective in pursuing this activity. In the first large scale empirical analysis of this operation, we show how to identify the secretive authors of these posts, the posts written by them, and their content. We estimate that the government fabricates and posts about 448 million social media comments a year. In contrast to prior claims, we show that the Chinese regime’s strategy is to avoid arguing with skeptics of the party and the government, and to not even discuss controversial issues. We infer that the goal of this massive secretive operation is instead to regularly distract the public and change the subject, as most of the these posts involve cheerleading for China, the revolutionary history of the Communist Party, or other symbols of the regime. We discuss how these results fit with what is known about the Chinese censorship program, and suggest how they may change our broader theoretical understanding of "common knowledge" and information control in authoritarian regimes.

Discussants: Andrew Little, Cornell

Chair: Nikolay Marinov


A paper, co-authored with Johannes Bubeck, was placed in a panel "The Dynamics and Consequences of Internal Party Politics."  (Thanks to section convener: Tom Pepinsky) 

Paper Title:

``Corruption Wins not more than Honesty? Electoral Interveners and Limited Control''

Extended Abstract:

 Elections are a widely recognized form of establishing legitimacy. Interventions by foreign powers in the elections of others are back in the spotlight after purported Russian attempts to influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Over the course of history Great Powers have at all times been engaged in different types of behavior with the goal of influencing democratic procedures in other countries. Foreign interventions can contribute, both positively and negatively, to the legitimacy of elections and the resulting political setup. 

Bubeck and Marinov (APSR 2017) systematically account for different types of intervention behavior by distinguishing between investment in candidates vs. investment in (electoral) processes. This includes the possibility of a “quest for legitimacy”: the part of interventions driven by genuine liberalism concerns. It also includes interventions driven by pure self-interest, i.e. electing one’s favored ‘dog in the race’. Bubeck and Marinov demonstrate that the mix and prevalence of such interventions can be explained within the framework of a new formal model of elections with outside influencers.

Many interesting cases can be addressed using the basic framework - but substantial extensions are useful in order to explain particular shifts in behaviour. For example, foreign powers may have only imperfect control over the use of their funds in target countries. By formally modelling “corruption” in a separate stage one can provide meaningful guidance for several cases in which there was a change in behavior under the absence of big shifts in political polarization or the preferences of the foreign power.

Think of post-war Greece, a country where “the sort of government that had emerged from the electoral process [...] was one that Americans found very hard to take” (McNeill, 1957). In 1950 this led the U.S. to “embark upon a determined and distinctly high-handed effort to get a government that would more nearly suit their wishes”. In terms of economic aid, they scaled back their efforts: “they would no longer tolerate the use of counterparty funds for balancing the national budget” (McNeill, 1957). In 1951, under “strong pressure from the United States Embassy” (McNeill, 1957), instead of proportional representation a majority system was instituted. With the resulting government the Americans “could do business” and economic aid was revived and as it was more likely to serve productive purposes rebuilding the Greek industrial infrastructure. 

Lebanon, Brazil, the Palestinian Territories, Ukraine, are all cases where outsiders have provided substantial resources to domestic actors, in an effort to help them win or retain power.

We add an additional stage to the model and explicitly account for the preferences of local political actors: they choose between influencing election outcomes and alternative uses of funds targeted towards their platforms. We find that subdued candidate support activities may persist beyond a certain threshold of polarization. This can explain low levels of candidate support under high levels of polarization. Another promising direction we are working on in this paper is adding the introduction of a second period, such that the model covers two successive elections. In this case, investment in the electoral process has a more persistent effect than candidate interventions which leads to a substitution of the latter. 

We also investigate the reasons for candidate support in the first place. Why would outsiders condition transfers on a candidate (that is, on who is in power) vs. policy outcomes (bargain with the leader, regardless of who is in power). Our hypothesis is that betting on candidates is explained by the existence of abnormal returns to betting on some candidate types. Fraud and political machines help some candidates over-promise to foreign powers. Especially when multiple powers are in conflict, such external betting may drive up corruption and have other bad consequences.

We continue the work started in Bubeck and Marinov (2017), to demonstrate the institutional drivers of external betting on candidates, and the consequences for domestic institutions. The work has implications for political regimes, foreign aid, and citizen welfare.


In addition, I am a discussant for the following panel: Foreign Economic Policy - the papers address the origins and consequences of foreign economic policy.

Competitive Financial Statecraft; China, Japan and Infrastructure Investment

Title (Paper)

Competitive Financial Statecraft; China, Japan and Infrastructure Investment

Author

Saori N. Katada, skatada@usc.edu; University of Southern California (Author) 

Abstract

One of the major foreign policy goals sought through financial statecraft by major financial powers is establishment of their regional leadership by “purchasing” support with foreign aid or investment. When there are two financial powers in the region competing for leadership, distinctive use of their respective financial statecraft strategies reveal each government’s ability and their domestic constraints. By examining the recent infrastructure investment initiatives promoted by the Chinese and Japanese governments through the episode surrounding the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Development Bank (AIIB) in 2015, this paper argues that not only domestic political structure but also its government-business relationship create distinctive approaches between financial statecraft by the two governments. Furthermore, the interaction and competition between the two aspiring hegemons in the region largely influence the structure of regional economic order.

Feeling Good by Doing Something: US Public Opinion on Economic Sanctions

Title (Paper)

Feeling Good by Doing Something: US Public Opinion on Economic Sanctions

Author

Katja B. Kleinberg, kkleinbe@binghamton.edu; SUNY, Binghamton University (Author) 

Abstract

 What determines public support for economic sanctions and how have these determinants changed over time? A growing body of scholarship is investigating the drivers of individual-level attitudes toward international trade, investment, and foreign aid. We know less about public views on economic sanctions, even though they remain a widely used foreign policy tool and have clear economic as well as security implications. Moreover, existing studies generally focus on public opinion at one point in time giving us little insight into how the shape and sources of public opinion may change with time and altered circumstances.  This study analyzes dozens of surveys of US public opinion between 1950 and 2014, drawn from the iPoll data collection, to investigate to what extent existing theoretical arguments about economic self-interest, sociotropic concerns, and non-economic factors such as threat perception and human rights considerations explain individual-level attitudes toward the use of economic sanctions. Because sanctions sit at the intersection of economic and security policy, their distributional implications for producers and consumers are frequently at odds with their costs and benefits in terms of broader foreign policy goals. This raises an interesting question: which parts of the public care more about economic than about security or human rights considerations and under what circumstances? 
Since the end of World War II, the US has experienced large changes in its exposure to foreign trade and in the number and type of national security challenges facing it at a given time. It has also historically been and remains today the most prolific user of economic sanctions. In addition to providing broader insights into the sources of public opinion on sanctions, this study will discuss to what extent the use of economic coercion by the US government aligns with US public opinion on the desirability of sanctions.

US Enforcement of Human Rights Clauses in Preferential Trade Agreements

Title (Paper)

US Enforcement of Human Rights Clauses in Preferential Trade Agreements

Author

Patrick Kearney, pmkearney@wisc.edu; University of Wisconsin Madison (Author) 

Abstract

Beginning with the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation, a side agreement to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the United States has included labor rights provisions in all but one of its Free Trade Agreements over the past two decades. These provisions, in theory and according to those who endorse them, were included as a means to give teeth to international labor agreements. That is, by linking labor rights to trade agreements those rights ought now take on the characteristics of hard law. Enforcement of these provisions, however, has been surprisingly rare despite the relative regularity of violations. In this paper, I examine this disconnect. In so doing, I suggest that enforcement has little to do with the violations themselves or with our traditional understandings of enforcement in international politics. Instead, I argue that enforcement decisions are primarily driven by domestic interest groups within the United States. Moreover, for these groups to be successful they must possess the ability to alter the domestic cost-benefit structure that decision makers face when considering taking enforcement action (often a steep curve given the lack of salience of these issues among the electorate). To corroborate these claims, this paper examines labor enforcement decisions in connection with the Central American and Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) employing both quantitative and qualitative approaches. In addition to finding support for the hypothesis, this paper delves into the fact that US enforcement has been generally motivated by baptist/bootlegger style coalitions of interest groups (in this case, those who truly care about rights and those employing them as a protectionist tool). More broadly, these findings provide insight regarding US enforcement of a broader spectrum of issues that the public may deem non-salient. Such results regarding the decision to enforce, have implications not only for our understanding of the process of international law enforcement, but also our beliefs about the long-term normative impacts of such agreements with regards to human rights practices.

Voters, Issue Salience, and Lobbying in Foreign Economic Policy

Title (Paper)

Voters, Issue Salience, and Lobbying in Foreign Economic Policy

Author

David H. Bearce, David.Bearce@colorado.edu; University of Colorado, Boulder (Author) 

Abstract

Scholars argue that most voters simply do not understand the complexities of international trade and exchange rates, for example, and thus do not rate foreign economic policy as a particularly salient issue-area when voting for candidates in democratic elections (e.g., Guisinger 2009). If this understanding is true, then it poses a theoretical puzzle for political economy research: if international economic policy is not salient to voters, then what accounts for the observed differences between democracies and non-democracies in this issue-area? For example, Milner and Kubota (2005) show that more democratic regimes have lower tariffs, while Broz (2002) demonstrates a positive relationship between democracy and exchange rate flexibility. How can we account for such differences if democratic voters do not perceive these international economic issues as politically salient and do not vote based on their assumed trade/exchange rate preferences?

Using a Grossman and Helpman-style political model where societal preferences are transmitted to the state through a voter/electoral channel (when it exists in more democratic regimes) and through a lobbying/special interest channel (existing in both democratic and non-democratic regimes), this primarily theoretical paper considers two ways to connect voters’ relative indifference to international economic issues to the observed differences between democracies and non-democracies in terms of their foreign economic policy with a focus on trade and exchange rate policy.

The first mechanism operates through the voter/electoral channel. Even if most members of the mass public are unable to understand the complexities of international trade and exchange rates and do not vote based on such considerations (we do not argue otherwise in this paper), foreign economic policy clearly has important domestic implications related to growth, employment and inflation, all of which rank as highly salient macroeconomic issues with lots of explanatory power when it comes to predicting democratic election outcomes. For example, reduced tariffs can be associated with lower domestic prices. Thus, even if citizens do not vote for freer trade, democratic governments still have an incentive to pursue this foreign economic policy due to voter/electoral pressure for reduced inflation. Similarly, open economy models explain how domestic monetary autonomy requires exchange rate flexibility. Thus, democratic governments have an electoral incentive to pursue this latter foreign economic policy to achieve a more independent monetary policy, which can then be targeted towards highly salient domestic macroeconomic issues (including growth, employment and inflation).

The second mechanism concerns the lobbying/special interest channel. While this means for societal actors to influence state policy exists in both democracies and non-democracies, the special interest channel is broader, or includes more groups, in more democratic regimes. Thus, while protectionist special interests may be the only group that can access the state in many autocratic regimes, both protectionist and free trade special interests may be able to successfully lobby in more democratic regimes, thus resulting in lower tariffs. Likewise, while exporting businesses may dominate the special interest channel in less democratic regimes (e.g., China), import-competing and non-tradable firms with an interest in domestic monetary autonomy can also access it in more democratic regimes, leading democracies to more flexible exchange rate regimes even when voters have no discernible interest in this foreign economic policy.