The Pathology of Hard Propaganda

Journal of Politics, Forthcoming

27 Pages Posted: 18 Oct 2017 Last revised: 20 Feb 2018

See all articles by Haifeng Huang

Haifeng Huang

University of California, Merced

Date Written: December 18, 2017


Authoritarian governments often impose crude and heavy-handed propaganda messages on society. Is such hard propaganda effective in sustaining authoritarian rule? With an original survey experiment featuring messages from China's ongoing propaganda campaign, this study shows that hard propaganda can backfire and worsen citizens' opinion of the regime, while at the same signaling the state's power and reducing citizens' willingness to protest. Thus, hard propaganda can deter dissent and help maintain regime stability in the short term, but also decrease regime legitimacy and aggravate the government' long term prospects, especially when its power, unity, and control capacity do not keep up with propaganda but fall short. This is the pathology of hard propaganda.

Suggested Citation

Huang, Haifeng, The Pathology of Hard Propaganda (December 18, 2017). Journal of Politics, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: or

Haifeng Huang (Contact Author)

University of California, Merced ( email )

Merced, CA
United States

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