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Violence Exposure and Support for State Use of Force in a Non-Democracy

  • Yue Hou (a1) and Kai Quek (a2)

How do individuals respond to internal security threats in non-democracies? Does violence make individuals more supportive of a strong state? Are the effects of violence on individual attitudes uniform, or are they heterogeneous with respect to the identity of the perpetrators? We field an online survey experiment on a national sample of Chinese citizens, in which respondents were randomly selected to view reports on violent acts in China. We show that exposure to violence makes individuals more supportive of a strong state: respondents randomly exposed to violence are more likely to approve police use of lethal force, and this effect is particularly strong among the less wealthy Han Chinese. We also find suggestive evidence that individuals exhibit intergroup biases in their reaction to violence.

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The research was approved by the Committee on the Use of Humans as Experimental Subjects (COUHES) at MIT. We thank Greg Distelhorst, Avery Goldstein, Guy Grossman, F. Daniel Hidalgo, Dorothy Kronick, Xiaojun Li, Hanzhang Liu, Peter Lorentzen, Dan Mattingly, Diana Mutz, Nicholas Sambanis, David Singer, Peichun Wang, Yiqing Xu, Wei Zhao, the editor, and three anonymous reviewers for helpful comments. Sources of financial support come from the Center for the Studies of Contemporary China at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Hong Kong. We declare no potential conflicts of interests. The data, code, and any additional materials required to replicate all analyses in this article are available at the Journal of Experimental Political Science Dataverse within the Harvard Dataverse Network, at doi: 10.7910/DVN/G7F5VA (Hou and Quek 2018).

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