Focusing on public opinion, my research aims to contribute to a more liberal and democratic society, such that global citizens—despite their social, economic, and political differences—can peacefully coexist. Motivated by this objective, my research agenda centers around the following questions that lie at the heart of liberal democracy:
- Under what conditions does the public resist autocracy and defend democracy?
- Under what conditions does the public abandon outgroup prejudice and endorse liberal policy?
- Under what conditions does the public oppose protectionist policy and favor international cooperation?
In answering these questions, I zoom in on the roles of mass media, political elites, and individual psychology.
- Yeung, Eddy S. F., and Kai Quek. 2024. “Self-Reported Political Ideology.” Political Science Research and Methods. [replication material, preanalysis plan]
- Keywords: ideology, liberal, conservative, measurement, political sophistication
Abstract:American politics scholarship has relied extensively on self-reported measures of ideology. We evaluate these widely used measures through an original national survey. Descriptively, we show that Americans’ understandings of “liberal” and “conservative” are weakly aligned with conventional definitions of these terms and that such understandings are heterogeneous across social groups, casting doubt on the construct validity and measurement equivalence of ideological self-placements. Experimentally, we randomly assign one of three measures of ideology to each respondent: (1) the standard ANES question, (2) a version that adds definitions of “liberal” and “conservative,” and (3) a version that keeps these definitions but removes ideological labels from the question. We find that the third measure, which helps to isolate symbolic ideology from operational ideology, shifts self-reported ideology in important ways: Democrats become more conservative, and Republicans more liberal. These findings offer first-cut experimental evidence on the limitations of self-reported ideology as a measure of operational ideology, and contribute to ongoing debates about the use of ideological self-placements in American politics.
- Yeung, Eddy S. F. 2024. “Can Conservatives Be Persuaded? Framing Effects on Support for Universal Basic Income in the US.” Political Behavior 46(1): 135–61. [replication material, preanalysis plan, slides]
- Coverage: Fortune
- Keywords: universal basic income, framing, conservative, welfare, public opinion
Abstract:Universal basic income (UBI) has been proposed as a policy response to technological advances and structural inequality. Yet, recent data show that most conservatives in Europe and the US are strongly opposed to the welfare proposal. Can framing UBI as a policy that conforms to their ideological predispositions overcome such opposition? Exploiting the compatibility of UBI with core conservative ideals such as individualism and laissez-faire government, I design an original survey experiment that randomly exposes respondents to one of two frames: (1) an equalizing-opportunity frame which emphasizes that UBI creates a level playing ﬁeld and promotes self-responsibility, or (2) a limiting-government frame which highlights UBI as a policy that limits government and reduces bureaucracy. I find that American conservatives—identified by using 10 policy statements—remained strongly opposed to UBI even after they were presented with such frames. Analyses of open-ended responses, which show that how conservatives explained their opposition to UBI remained unchanged regardless of framing, reinforce this conclusion. Conservatives’ opposition to UBI remained rigid, even after the key components of UBI that ﬁt the conservative ideology were accentuated. These results shed light on the political feasibility of framing UBI, and the rigidity of welfare attitudes among American conservatives.
- Yeung, Eddy S. F. 2023. “Overestimation of the Level of Democracy among Citizens in Nondemocracies.” Comparative Political Studies 56(2): 228–66. [replication material, preprint]
- Keywords: nondemocratic regimes, comparative public opinion, media control, democratic legitimacy, authoritarian resilience
Abstract:Overestimation of the level of democracy is prevalent among citizens in nondemocracies. Despite such prevalence, no research to date has systematically documented this phenomenon and examined its determinants. Yet given the renewed interest in the role of legitimacy in authoritarian survival, studying whether and why this phenomenon arises is important to our understanding of authoritarian resilience. I argue that, even in the absence of democratic institutions in nondemocracies, autocrats exercise media control in order to boost their democratic legitimacy. This façade of democracy, in turn, benefits their survival. Combining media freedom data with individual survey response data that include over 30,000 observations from 22 nondemocracies, I find that overestimation of the level of democracy is greater in countries with stronger media control. But highly educated citizens overestimate less. These findings shed light on media control as a strategy for authoritarian survival, and have important implications for modernization theory.
- Yeung, Eddy S. F., and Kai Quek. 2022. “Relative Gains in the Shadow of a Trade War.” International Organization 76(3): 741–65. [replication material]
- Coverage: U.S.-China Perception Monitor
- Keywords: relative gains, other-regarding preferences, trade, U.S.-China relations, public opinion
Abstract:When do people care about relative gains in trade? Much of the international relations scholarship—and much of the political rhetoric on trade—would lead us to expect support for a trade policy that benefits ourselves more than it benefits others. Yet, a large interdisciplinary literature also points to the prevalence and importance of other-regarding preferences, rendering the conventional wisdom contestable. We investigate whether and how relative gains influence trade preferences through an original survey experiment in the midst of the China–US trade war. We find that in a win-win scenario, relative gains shape trade opinion: if both sides are gaining, people want to gain more than their foreign trade partner. However, these considerations are offset in a win-lose scenario where the other side is losing out. Relative-gains considerations causally affect opinion on trade, but not in a “beggar-thy-neighbor” or even a “beggar-thy-rival” situation. These findings contribute to our understanding of the role of relative gains in international relations and provide the first experimental evidence that relative-gains considerations can be offset by other-regarding preferences in international trade.
- Yeung, Eddy S. F. 2021. “Does Immigration Boost Public Euroscepticism in European Union Member States?” European Union Politics 22(4): 631–54. [replication material, preprint]
- Coverage: European Politics and Policy
- Keywords: European integration, Euroscepticism, immigration, public opinion
Abstract:A number of studies have established a strong link between anti-immigration and Eurosceptic attitudes. But does this relationship necessarily imply that more immigration would increase public Euroscepticism in member states of the European Union? I evaluate this question by analyzing immigration data and Eurobarometer survey data over the period 2009–2017. The analysis shows no evidence that individual levels of Euroscepticism increase with actual levels of immigration. This result suggests that a strong link between anti-immigration and Eurosceptic attitudes does not necessarily translate into a strong link between immigration levels and public Euroscepticism. Public Euroscepticism can still be low even if immigration levels are high.
Please email me for the latest drafts.
- Yeung, Eddy S. F., Mengqiao Wang, and Kai Quek. “What Is a Patriot? A Cross-National Study in China and the United States.” Accepted at Foreign Policy Analysis.
Abstract:Patriotism is one of the most powerful and pervasive forces in politics. However, not much is known about how people understand what it means to be “patriotic” in the first place. We conduct a cross-country study of mass understandings of patriotism. Through parallel national surveys in two global superpowers—China and the United States—we uncover the substantively different understandings of what it means to be “patriotic” between and within countries, and how the different understandings may map onto different policy preferences. In particular, while the literature draws a distinction between (benign) patriotism and (malign) nationalism, we find that most Chinese respondents—and about a third of American respondents—understand patriotism as nationalism. The nationalistic understanding of patriotism, in turn, corresponds to more hawkish foreign policy preferences. By unpacking folk intuitions about patriotism and mapping them onto existing scholarly debates, we bridge the distance between the academic literature and the mass political behavior it seeks to explain.
- Wang, Hsu Yumin, and Eddy S. F. Yeung. “Mimicking Democracy: The Legitimizing Role of Redistributionist Propaganda in Autocracies.” Registered report principally accepted at The Journal of Politics.
Abstract:Autocrats often disseminate propaganda to boast about their redistributive efforts. Why is such propaganda so prevalent in autocracies? We propose a novel explanation: redistributionist propaganda helps autocrats fortify a façade of democracy. Our argument is premised on nuanced understandings of democracy among the masses: many citizens do not hold a strict, procedural view of democracy; instead, they often understand democracy through the lens of social equity. Exploiting such nuanced understandings of democracy, autocrats can deploy redistributionist propaganda to manipulate public opinion on how “equity-promoting”—and therefore how “democracy-promoting”—the regime is. To evaluate our argument, we first demonstrate with extensive cross-national survey data that perceived social equity strongly predicts perceived democratic legitimacy among global citizens. We then probe the causal effect of redistributionist propaganda by using a preregistered survey experiment that exploits real-world propaganda material in China. Consistent with our argument, respondents exposed to redistributionist propaganda evaluated China’s democracy more positively.
- Peskowitz, Zachary, and Eddy S. F. Yeung. “Measuring Preference Intensity: An Investigation into the Sensitivity of Quadratic Voting and an Application in State Politics.” [preanalysis plan, poster]
Abstract:Measuring preference intensity is extraordinarily difﬁcult. Quadratic voting for survey research (QVSR) measures individual preference intensity using an incentive-compatible approach. Because QVSR elicits preference intensity relative to a set of alternatives, one reasonable but untested concern is its sensitivity to the choice set of policy issues. We randomly assign choice sets of policy issues to respondents and measure their preference intensity. We show that measured levels of preference intensity are not sensitive to changes in policy bundles for a wide range of policies. We further document two properties of QVSR: respondents under QVSR, compared to Likert measures, are less likely to pick a side and more likely to express intense preferences in line with a canonical measure of attitude strength. We then use our measures to examine how state-level preference intensity predicts actual policy outcomes. We ﬁnd that preference intensity does not meaningfully shape policy congruence in the American states.
- Yeung, Eddy S. F. “The Logic of Provocative Propaganda in the Shadow of Democratic Uprisings.” [preanalysis plan]
Abstract:In contemporary autocracies where democratic uprisings have gained momentum, a special form of propaganda exists: political messages that blatantly taunt or mock the opposition. Instead of diverting citizens’ attention away from opposition voices, such propaganda directs its rhetoric and public attention toward the opposition and the ongoing movement. What is the political logic behind it? Drawing on extensive literature in social psychology and social movements, I argue that such propaganda aims to provoke and radicalize the opposition. By radicalizing protesters in social movements, the autocrat can discredit regime opponents and dissuade the rest of the public from joining forces with the opposition. Thus, provocative propaganda can help delegitimize the opposition and impede democratic uprisings, beneﬁting authoritarian survival. I test the microfoundations of my theory by exploiting real-world provocative propaganda widely disseminated amid the Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill movement in Hong Kong. I ﬁnd that regime opponents reported higher levels of anger, disgust, and support for protest violence upon randomized exposure to provocative propaganda—consistent with the empirical implications of my theory.
- Yeung, Eddy S. F. “Learning to Love Trade? Effects of Sociotropic Information on Public Support for International Trade.” [preanalysis plan 1, preanalysis plan 2]
Abstract:Past inﬂuential literature in international political economy holds that individuals “learn to love globalization.” Recent research then invokes the concept of economic ignorance and shows that providing egocentric information—which helps individuals understand how trade affects economic self-interest—substantively shapes trade support. Existing scholarship, however, remains inconclusive on whether sociotropic information—which helps individuals understand how trade affects their country—induces similar effects on trade preferences. Drawing on recent scholarship and observational data, I identify sociotropic information that is theoretically “most likely” to enhance trade support in the US: trade’s beneﬁts on American jobs or exports/imports, particularly in the agricultural and manufacturing sectors. I then test the impact of such sociotropic information by conducting two preregistered survey experiments on nationally representative samples. Across both experiments, I ﬁnd no evidence that informing citizens about the societal beneﬁts of trade increases trade support, suggesting that the role of sociotropic information in shaping individual trade preferences may be more limited than previously thought.
- Quek, Kai, and Eddy S. F. Yeung. “Deescalating a Trade War: Dyadic Experiments in China and the United States.” [preanalysis plan]
Abstract:How can a trade war be deescalated? While the possible scenarios are many, they often involve some positive signal from one side and reciprocation by the other. How one country reciprocates—and how its domestic public and international rival respond to its reciprocation—is critical to the dynamics of deescalation. We delineate and analyze three theoretical forms of reciprocity: balanced reciprocity (reciprocation perceivably equivalent to the received), semi-reciprocity (less than received), and super-reciprocity (more than received). We map theory to experimentation by ﬁelding parallel experiments in China and the United States, capturing the full interaction structure and randomizing who initiates, who reciprocates, and how. By tracking the outcomes across different action-reciprocation pathways among the populations at stake, we offer causal evidence on the domestic dynamics underlying the different pathways of deescalating a trade war that has profoundly impacted the global economy.
- Yeung, Eddy S. F., and Joseph Glasgow. “Racialized Misinformation, Factual Corrections, and Prejudicial Attitudes: The Cases of Welfare and Immigration.” [preanalysis plan 1, preanalysis plan 2, preanalysis plan 3]
Abstract:Misunderstandings of marginalized social groups are prevalent among the American public. Such racialized misinformation, according to recent scholarship, plays an important role in shaping outgroup prejudice. Does correcting misinformed beliefs about marginalized social groups reduce prejudicial attitudes? To test the impact of factual corrections, we conduct three preregistered survey experiments in the United States (n = 8,306). Study 1 and Study 2 draw on the case of welfare and inform respondents that the share of Black welfare recipients is lower than that of White recipients. Study 3 focuses on the case of immigration and informs respondents that immigrants’ crime rate is lower than natives’ crime rate. Overall, our information interventions reduce individual prejudice against Blacks and immigrants—two of the most stigmatized social groups in the United States. We contribute to the prejudice reduction literature by offering ﬁrst-cut experimental evidence that factual corrections can mitigate prejudice against minority groups.
- Yeung, Eddy S. F., and Weifang Xu. “Do External Threats Increase Bipartisanship in the United States? An Experimental Test in the Shadow of China’s Rise.” [preanalysis plan]
Abstract:Do external threats increase American bipartisanship? While previous scholarship suggests they do, recent research argues that security threats from foreign adversaries may further polarize Americans amid hyperpartisanship, as information about external threats is often ﬁltered through partisan lens. We subject these competing perspectives to an experimental test. Leveraging the Biden and Trump administrations’ similar characterization of the China threat, we exposed American respondents to real-world primes about security threats from China, while randomizing the messenger of such primes. Our preregistered experiment shows that the threat primes—regardless of the partisan identity of their messenger—boosted both Democrats’ and Republicans’ support for assertive foreign policy, thereby failing to reduce preference polarization. Importantly, there were no measurable changes across multiple indicators of affective polarization. These ﬁndings clarify the limits of external threats in uniting Americans, while also challenging recent perspectives that external threats—often colored by elite rhetoric—will further polarize the American public.
- Yeung, Eddy S. F. “Dynamic Democratic Backsliding.” [preanalysis plan]
Abstract:Democratic backsliding occurs over time, but the study of how citizens respond to undemocratic politicians has been predominantly static. Drawing on psychological theories, I formulate predictions about how different sequences of democratic backsliding shape accountability. I then test the hypotheses in an original experiment which captures the reality that democratic transgressions are committed by elected ofﬁcials, not unelected candidates, over time. Results from a large American sample (n = 4,234) show that the sequence of democratic backsliding matters: elected ofﬁcials who increase the severity of democratic transgressions step by step are less likely to be held accountable by voters than those who incrementally decrease the severity of transgressions. Moreover, when respondents are confronted with the same transgressions, they change their electoral behavior drastically depending on what other transgressions precede. These ﬁndings illustrate the importance of studying democratic backsliding dynamically and underscore the threat of stealth authoritarianism to democracy.
Work in Progress
- Propaganda as Provocation: How Autocrats Use Political Rhetoric to Impede Democratic Uprisings (dissertation book project)
- “Mass Understandings of Democracy: Experimental Evidence from a Six-Country Survey” (with Jonathan Chu and Scott Williamson)
- “Democratic Evaluation: How Comparisons Influence Individual Assessments of Democracy” (with Jennifer Gandhi)
- “Measuring and Testing Interventions to Change Resilience and Will-to-Fight in Taiwan” (with Renard Sexton, Hans Tung, and Hsu Yumin Wang)
- “Perception, Misperception, and Crisis Deescalation: Cross-National Experimental Evidence” (with Matthew Conklin)
- “White Identity, Psychological Wage, and the Racial Politics of Soaking the Rich” (with Hsu Yumin Wang)
Null Results Report
- Wang, Hsu Yumin, and Eddy S. F. Yeung. 2022. “Attitudes toward Internal Migrants and Support for Redistribution: Evidence from Shanghai.” [replication material, preanalysis plan]