Truex, R. & D. Tavana (2017). "Implicit Attitudes Towards an Authoritarian Regime." Working Paper. Princeton University, Department of Politics and Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
This study measures Egyptian citizens’ attitudes towards President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi using a Single Category Implicit Association Test (SCIAT). Roughly 58% of respondents hold positive implicit attitudes towards Sisi, which suggests a deeper reservoir of popular support than is conventionally assumed. The data also allows for an investigation of attitude dissociation, whereby individuals hold distinct implicit and explicit attitudes towards a target object. Government employees and Copts are more likely to hold positive explicit attitudes towards Sisi but negative or neutral implicit attitudes. Students appear to systematically engage in inverse dissociation- they voice criticism towards Sisi despite holding more positive implicit attitudes. These findings are interpretable using the Associative-Propositional Evaluation model. The paper closes with a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of the implicit approach relative to other sensitive question techniques.
Truex, R. (2016). "Focal Points, Dissident Calendars, and Preemptive Repression." Working Paper. Princeton University, Department of Politics and Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
This paper develops and tests a theory that explains temporal variation in repression as a function of the "dissident calendar," the set of events that serve as natural focal points for coordination. The core argument is that regimes can anticipate the events that create these focal points and engage in preemptive repression to survive their passing. This dynamic produces predictable, often cyclical patterns in repression. An analysis of dissident detentions in China from 1998 to 2014 shows that "focal events" alone appear to be responsible for more than 20% of dissident detentions over the analysis period. Such detentions tend to be shorter and rely less on formal criminal procedures, suggesting a "catch-and-release" dynamic. Additional analyses of detentions in Tibet shows how the calendar may vary by issue or group.
How do citizens living under authoritarian rule perceive state-controlled news? Building on existing research on media bias in the U.S., this paper presents findings from a survey experiment that exposes Chinese citizens to different news stories, randomly assigning the putative source as well as the content itself. The core result is that respondents are aware of pro-regime biases in official mouthpieces but trust these outlets more anyway. Open-ended questions reveal two likely mechanisms. Citizens either a.) genuinely support the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and want pro-government news media or b.) are better able to "back out the biases" from the reliably slanted official papers. Existing models of media politics must be amended to account for the dominance of official papers in authoritarian settings.