Research

“The Effects of Affective Polarization on Political Participation: Does Hating the Other Side Motivate Voters?” with Diana C. Mutz

This study tests the hypothesis that affective polarization encourages greater political participation. Drawing on cross-sectional and panel survey data, we find consistent evidence that affective polarization is related to self-reported voter turnout and intent to vote, as well as to forms of participation beyond voting. However, using validated measures of voter turnout, the size of this relationship is more modest. Panel analyses also suggest that increases in affective polarization produce increases in the likelihood of turning out to vote. Given that affective polarization has doubled in magnitude since 1980, the cumulative effects of affective polarization on turnout is sizable and potentially important in close elections. Finally, our findings prompt reconsideration of high levels of voter participation as the gold standard for the quality of democracy.

“Can Hobbyism Lead to Civic Duty?” with Yphtach Lelkes

Can slacktivism increase a sense of civic duty, the fundamental base of civic participation? Critiques of slacktivism argue that low-cost online forms of political engagement may weaken commitment to more substantial political actions. In contrast, supporters of online activism have provided an opposite line of evidence to the slacktivism hypothesis. Compared to the amount of attention that slacktivism has attracted, it is less known whether low-threshold activities to express political opinions online actually weaken offline political activism, especially with a causal argument. Thus, we tested the slacktivism hypothesis with an online experiment (= 2,007). Our findings demonstrate that, contrary to our expectation, signing an online petition significantly decrease one’s level of civic duty. The negative effect of slacktivism on civic duty was more prominent from the participants less interested in politics. By empirically showing that slacktivism may attenuate civic duty, particularly to those who remain inattentive to politics, we provide further implications on how online forms of political participation may reinforce inequalities in civic engagement.

“Truth, Justice, and the American Way: The Influence of Superhero Movies on the Belief in American Exceptionalism”

The idea of American exceptionalism has been part of American thinking for a long time, yet many Americans are now losing faith in the country’s unique role in the world. Apart from real-world changes in contemporary international politics surrounding the United States, what factors can explain this change in public opinion? I argue that entertainment media consumption plays an important role. Superhero movies, in particular, one of the most popular movie genres of all time, carry narratives that resonate with the expectations of American morality and values. Based on a 40-year content analysis of US superhero movies, I find that the genre has undergone remarkable changes: Since 2002, superhero movies have featured more flawed, imperfect, and self-reflective heroes as the main protagonists. According to my online experiment, watching a superhero movie featuring an ideal superhero increased viewers’ belief in American exceptionalism, whereas watching a movie with a flawed superhero attenuated such beliefs, albeit with marginal significance. These effects were more profound from heavy viewers of superhero movies than light viewers. By demonstrating how popular culture is causally linked with individuals’ understanding of politics, my findings extend previous discussions on what constitutes political media effects. Further, this study shows that the media genre, which is often treated as something static, can be dynamic as a result of changes in the political reality, leading to different political effects.

“What Does the Lack of Privacy Talk Tell Us About Privacy? Case Study of South Korean Bloggers in Government Mandated Quarantine” with Jenny Jeehyun Lee

This article examines how Korean people perceive the Korean government’s digital surveillance to combat COVID-19. Current scholarly and media conversations mainly examine the public’s relative acceptance of the government’s health surveillance through the framework of collectivism and Confucianism. We argue that these frameworks tend to lump Asian cultures together, not accounting for the various political systems and cultural contexts in the region. Further, they limit the understanding of data privacy in the Asian context to the binary oppositions of Western individualism and Eastern collectivism. As a democratic nation with comprehensive data privacy laws aimed at limiting the government’s surveillance powers, Korea provides a unique case study to examine the complex intersections of government surveillance, data privacy, and national emergency in the time of COVID-19. Accordingly, we investigate how Korean people make sense of data privacy, government surveillance, and the relation between these two contradictory notions in the context of COVID-19. To achieve our research agenda, we employ LDA topic modeling and qualitative discourse analysis of online blog texts related to self-quarantine experience in South Korea.

How Interstate Competition Shapes Public Attitudes on Border Politics: Evidence from the COVID-19 Pandemic

In the United States, the widespread use of border closures as a response to COVID-19 has often been accompanied by a severe amount of attacking China as a threat to American sovereignty and a root cause of the virus. During the Trump administration, the US foreign policy has been colored with strong national undertones, inseparable from constantly stoking US-China antagonism. Then, what effects can the perceived rivalry between the US and China have on the American public’s view on politics, particularly related to COVID-19? I argue that seeing another country as a ‘competitor’ that the United States has to defeat can have a significant impact on attitudes toward national borders and globalization. Combining a sentiment analysis on border(s)- and pandemic-related tweets (N = 216,884) and two sets of survey experiments with American citizens (N = 402 and = 800), I find that perceived interstate competition effectively heightens support for stricter cross-border regulations and anti-globalization policies related to COVID-19. Such effects were more prominent from those who showed lower levels of social dominance orientation, implying that interstate competition messages can affect even the group of Americans who less view the international politics in a zero-sum relationship. I conclude by discussing the implications of understanding public opinion on border politics with intergroup psychology literature, especially when the future of international cooperation may be more threatened due to the COVID-19 pandemic and growing US-China rivalry.

“The Political Value of the Non-Political Media: Revisiting the News-Entertainment Divide” with Shengchun Sarah Huang

Despite the fact that citizens are less attentive to political news than expected from academics, a large proportion of research in political science focuses on news studies. The news-oriented bias within the political science research originates from the normative expectation that news, compared to entertainment, contributes more to a better democracy. Our research revisits this divide between news and entertainment media by demonstrating ‘political’ values within the ‘non-political’ media. Based on large-scale topic modeling and sentiment analysis on the YouTube comments collected from 84 news channels and 12 entertainment channels over six months, we argue that entertainment videos still attract a considerable amount of political discussions from the viewers, compared with news videos. Further, political discussions related to entertainment videos covered a much wider range of topics than discussions from news videos. We also find that the comments from entertainment videos expressed significantly less negative emotion than the comments under news videos, implying less hostile political talk when consuming entertainment media. Building on the line of research that demonstrates how non-political media can boost political interest and invite more ideologically diverse reflections from the users compared to explicitly political media, we provide theoretical implications on the importance of going beyond the dichotomy between news and entertainment.

“The Criminals in Our Minds? Crime Films and Opposition to Immigration

What can explain strong opposition to immigration when elite-level populist attacks are relatively benign, as in South Korea? I argue that consumption of crime films with the negative representation of immigrants can engender political attitudes: opposition to immigration. Based on longitudinal content analysis, I find that crime films with Korean-Chinese criminals have become a remarkable trend in South Korean cinema. To find a causal relationship between crime film viewing and anti-immigration attitudes, I conducted a movie-watching experiment. Consistent with my hypothesis, exposure to crime films significantly increased safety threats from immigrants and anti-immigration attitudes. Such effects were more prominent from the heavy viewers of crime movies and those deeply immersed in the film narrative. While previous works on media effects in immigrant politics have focused on news media, my research extends the boundary of political communication from traditional news to entertaining films, often overlooked as non-political. Method-wise, I establish causality between entertainment media and political attitudes by combining content analysis and an experiment.

“Government Responses and Populist Attitudes:Evidence from an e-Petition Survey Experiment” with Munroe Kim

How can online participatory platforms affect populist attitudes among citizens? Recent criticism towards the People’s Petition in South Korea assert that the platform incites populism among citizens. We examine the validity of such claims by focusing on two elements of e-petitions: unsatisfactory government responses and popularity cues. We hypothesize that these characteristics of the petition system work jointly to decrease perceived responsiveness among voters and strengthen populist attitudes. Our claim is tested through an online survey experiment conducted in South Korea. Results show that contrary to widespread criticism, government responses may actually weaken general levels of populist attitudes, even when they are unsatisfactory. We interpret these results as demonstrating the prospects of utilizing online participatory platforms to alleviate widespread populist attitudes.

“Perceptions of Political Polarization and Self-Censorship: Does Perceived Polarization Discourage People from Speaking Their Minds?” with Amber Hye-Yon Lee

Does Being Attacked as a ‘Feminist’ Discourage Women’s Political Expressions Online? Experimental Evidence” with Grace Go-Eun Kim

“Reflecting Asian American Activism Online Via #StopAsianHate”