Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs


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Seminar Series: How Propaganda Manipulates Emotion to Fuel Nationalism: Experimental Evidence from China

Friday, September 18, 2020, 12:00pm - 01:15pm

Presenter: Assistant Professor Daniel Mattingly, Yale University Department of Political Science 
In collaboration with UW-Madison Department of Political Science Models and Data (MAD) group

Access via Zoom – Passcode: 167799, Meeting ID: 939 7424 5095

Influential studies depict propaganda as a heavy-handed tool with limited persuasive power. By contrast, Dan Mattingly of Yale University and Elaine Yao of Princeton University argue that propaganda can effectively manipulate emotions and cause durable changes in nationalist attitudes.

Mattingly will discuss the experiments he and Yao conducted in which they exposed over 6,800 respondents in China to propaganda videos drawn from state-run newscasts, television dramas, and state-backed social media accounts, each containing nationalist messages favored by the Chinese Communist Party.

Exposure to nationalist propaganda increases anger as well as anti-foreign sentiment and behavior; however, Mattingly and Yao found that nationalist propaganda had no effect on perceptions of Chinese government performance or self-reported willingness to protest against the state. These findings suggest that nationalist propaganda can manipulate emotions and anti-foreign sentiment, but it does not necessarily divert attention from domestic political grievances.

Dan Mattingly is an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at Yale University. His research focuses on the politics of authoritarian regimes, historical political economy, and China. Mattingly’s book, The Art of Political Control in China, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2019.