Perceived Motives of Public Diplomacy Influence Foreign Public Opinion
55 Pages Posted: 2 Feb 2021 Last revised: 21 Nov 2022
Date Written: November 20, 2022
Although many countries engage in public diplomacy, we know relatively little about the conditions under which their efforts create foreign support for their desired policy outcomes. Drawing on the psychological theory of "insincerity aversion," we argue that the positive effects of public diplomacy on foreign public opinion are attenuated and potentially even eliminated when foreign citizens become suspicious about possible hidden motives. To test this theory, we fielded a survey experiment involving divergent media frames of a real Russian medical donation to the U.S. early in the COVID-19 pandemic. We find that an adapted news article excerpt describing Russia's donation as genuine can decrease American citizens' support for sanctions on Russia. However, exposing respondents to information suggesting that Russia had political motivations for their donation is enough to cancel out the positive effect. Our findings suggest theoretical implications for the literature on foreign public opinion in international relations, particularly about the circumstances under which countries can manipulate the attitudes of other countries' citizens.
Keywords: public diplomacy, media framing, national images, foreign public opinion, Russia, United States, COVID-19, health diplomacy
JEL Classification: D74, D83
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation