The Pathology of Hard Propaganda
Journal of Politics, Forthcoming
27 Pages Posted: 18 Oct 2017 Last revised: 20 Feb 2018
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.
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