Social Context and Popular Support in Autocracies

56 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2022

See all articles by Ting Luo

Ting Luo

Manchester Metropolitan University

Daniela Stockmann

Leiden University - Department of Political Science

Pierre F. Landry

University of Pittsburgh

Date Written: September 7, 2022

Abstract

Why do some people living under authoritarian rule support the goals and policies of authoritarian rulers, while others oppose them? One important explanation of popular support points towards information propagated by state-dominated media. We argue that people also evaluate policies based on observational cues within the social context they live in. Drawing on the debate about the building of the social credit system in China, we probe the causal relationship between observational cues and popular support for state involvement in managing the social credit system. To do so, we draw on the first nationally representative survey oversampling Internet users in China, combining face-to-face survey data with community-level data tied to the geographical location of respondents. We find that people become more supportive of state management of the social credit system as their community is more integrated into Alibaba’s e-finance services. We argue that this relation is driven by observational cues about policy implementation as a financial rather than political tool, leading to shifts in levels of popular support for state involvement in the social credit system. These findings highlight the importance of social context in understanding popular support for the policies and goals of authoritarian rulers.

Keywords: priming, media effects, social context, social interaction, privacy, digitization, autocracy, authoritarianism, China, social credit system, surveillance, public opinion, society, Internet

Suggested Citation

Luo, Ting and Stockmann, Daniela and Landry, Pierre F., Social Context and Popular Support in Autocracies (September 7, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4212388 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4212388

Ting Luo (Contact Author)

Manchester Metropolitan University ( email )

Department of History, Politics and Philosophy
All Saints
Manchester, M15 6BH
United Kingdom

Daniela Stockmann

Leiden University - Department of Political Science ( email )

2333 AK Leiden
Netherlands
+31 (0)71 527 3867 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.daniestockmann.net

Pierre F. Landry

University of Pittsburgh ( email )

4L01 Posvar Hall
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States
412-648-7250 (Phone)
412-648-7277 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.pitt.edu/~politics/faculty.html

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