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Reciprocity and Public Opposition to Foreign Direct Investment


Prior international political economy public opinion research has primarily examined how economic and socio-cultural factors shape individuals’ views on the flows of goods, people and capital. This research has largely ignored whether individuals also care about rewarding or punishing foreign countries for their policies on these issues. We tested this possibility by administering a series of conjoint and traditional survey experiments in the United States and China that examined how reciprocity influences opposition to foreign acquisitions of domestic companies. We find that reciprocity is an important determinant of public opinion on the regulation of foreign investments. This suggests the need to consider the policies that other countries adopt when trying to explain public attitudes toward global economic integration.

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University of Chicago Law School (email:; Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University (email:; Department of Government, Harvard University (email: We thank Torben Behmer, Benjamin Cohen, Lisa Fan, Lida Liu and Xuanzhong Wang for research assistance. We also thank Todd Henderson, Joshua Kertzer Steven Laio, Lucas Linsi, Saul Levmore, and Lisa McKay for their helpful comments. This project also benefited from feedback given at the European Association for Law and Economics 2015 conference, the Shanghai Jiao Tong University and University of Chicago 2015 Securities Law Forum, the Midwest Political Science Association 2015 conference, the Political Economy of International Organizations 2016 conference, the 2016 Conference on Empirical Legal Studies and a workshop presentation at the University of California San Diego. Data replication files are available in Havard Dataverse at: and online appendices at

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