Family Matters: Education and the (Conditional) Effect of State Indoctrination in China
Public Opinion Quarterly
60 Pages Posted: 14 Sep 2020 Last revised: 28 Jun 2021
Date Written: September 10, 2020
When and how does state indoctrination work? Building upon research on motivated reasoning and family socialization, I argue that only those individuals whose parents have connections to political patronage are subject to state indoctrination because their pro-regime biases transmitted from parents induce higher receptivity ex ante to government messages. Focusing on political education in China, I conduct a quasi-experimental analysis exploiting the sharp variation in textbook content generated by China's most recent curriculum reform. Results based on a national survey show that the new politics textbooks successfully affected only those individuals whose parents had worked for the government. The finding survives extensive robustness checks and falsification tests. I also consider several alternative explanations of the effects: preference falsification, selective attention, parental indoctrination, and educational quality. This paper not only highlights the role of intergenerational transmission in moderating the effectiveness of state indoctrination but also casts doubt on the actual degree to which regimes can change minds by changing educational content.
Keywords: state indoctrination, propaganda, public opinion, China
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