Prejudice and foreign policy views

Scholars of foreign policy preference formation have accepted what Rathbun et al. (2016) call the “vertical hierarchy model,” which says that policy attitudes are determined by more abstract moral ideas about right and wrong. This paper turns this idea on its head by introducing the prejudice first model, arguing that foreign policy preferences and orientations are in part driven by attitudes towards the groups being affected by specific policies. Three experiments are used to test the utility of this framework. First, when conservatives heard about Muslims killing Christians, as opposed to the opposite scenario, they were more likely to support a humanitarian intervention and agree that the United States has a moral obligation to help those persecuted by their governments. Liberals showed no religious preference. When the relevant identity group was race, however, liberals were more likely to want to help blacks persecuted by whites, while conservatives showed no racial bias. In contrast, the degree of persecution mattered relatively little to respondents in either experiment. In another experiment, conservatives adopted more isolationist policies after reading a text about the country becoming more liberal, as opposed to a paragraph that said the United States was a relatively conservative country. The treatment showed the opposite effect on liberals, although the results fell just short of statistical significance. While not necessarily contradicting the vertical hierarchy model, the results indicate that prejudices and biases not only help influence foreign policy attitudes, but moral perceptions of right and wrong in international politics.

That is from Richard Hanania and Robert Trager.  File under “Mood Affiliation…”


Liberals are from Venus. Conservatives are from Mars.

Members of the Republican party tend to have younger siblings while members of the Democratic party tend to have older siblings.

'File under “Mood Affiliation…”'

Well, somebody's mood affiliation.

I could see why conservatives would be more isolationist if the country was becoming more liberal but I don't see why liberals would necessarily be more isolationist if the country was becoming more conservative.

I would guess that it has to do with not wanting to see you opposite-ideology government imposing its views on the world. You'd rather see a government retreat from world affairs than to see it trying to cultivate like politics around the world.

So now we're reporting on results that don't even meet significance? P hacking is one thing, but "who even cares about p?" rachets the replication crisis to a whole new level.

'So now we're reporting on results that don't even meet significance?'


Clearly, you need to replace a reliance on actual facts, as that merely signals you are still lost in a particularly pernicious type of mood affiliation.

Maybe the result is affected by Bayesian expectations. Isn't persecution of Christians around the world by Muslims more commmon than persecution of Muslims by Christians and more common than racial persecution (of Blacks by Whites or Whites by Blacks)? People may reject intervening if the scenario seems unlikely because they may not believe the report is true.

Rightly or wrongly, many around the world view the American Wars in the Middle East to be persecution of Muslims by Christians and possibly Jews..

I think Muslim deaths in the fall of Yugoslavia were around 8000. That's a fairly big genocide.

A traditional conservative values order and stability, which is to say the status quo. A traditional liberal, on the other hand, views the status quo as simply a historical power imbalance that should be corrected. Everything is turned on its head, however, when power shifts from one group to another: the status quo ain't what it used to be. Who is oppressed now? Terms like conservative and liberal have lost much of their meaning. Thus, mid-western conservative values has become a non sequitur. As has west coast liberal values. There was a time when evangelical Christians were considered liberal because of their concern for the relatively weak. Today, after the ascendance of evangelical Christians, they are considered conservative because of their concern for the relatively powerful. Folklore in America is chock-full of such lessons. Consider the American west, whether represented by characters portrayed by Gary Cooper or Clint Eastwood, or in plots (how many remakes of the Seven Samurai does it take before we get it). And lest one be confused, the heroes in Ayn Rand folklore aren't exactly the downtrodden.

Your enemy's enemy is your friend. Your enemy's enemy's enemy is your enemy. Your friends are your enemies, mod 2.

To illustrate this idea, imagine a hypothetical group of people, the Parmenions, who hitherto unknown in America, suddenly start immigrating here from their enclaves in Iran. (Parmenion was a loyal general of Alexander, whose son betrayed the Macedonian conqueror and was put to death. Though presumably Parmenion played no part in the attempted coup and was on campaign away in Media at the time, Alexander ordered his death solely on his relation.) Americans know nothing about the Parmenions or their culture, but then an obscure Parmenion musician lands on new singles by Kendrick Lamar and other famous rappers. What happens afterwards?

I would argue that simply by assocation, the Left becomes more sympathetic and the Right becomes more suspicious of this new group of people. Suddenly Parmenion faces dot brochures touting campus and workplace diversity, and new Parmenion restaurants blow up in Brooklyn. At loud bars, ears perk up when someone says "I'm Parmenion." Meanwhile, Breitbart publishes pieces highlighting the lack of assimilation within the Parmenion community. Talk radio hosts purposely butcher the pronunciation to emphasize Parmenion otherness. Message boards seethe with partisans either maligning or defending Parmenions based on the personal politics of the poster.

Then suppose after some more digging and a publication in Vox, American are educated to the fact that Parmenions, though not Jewish themselves, have a deep affinity to Judaism and the Jewish God. Suddenly, the pendulum swings in reverse. The WSJ publishes a piece on the plight of the Parmenion minority in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Conservatives start talking about the strong moral values of the Parmenions. And your liberal friends in Brooklyn... "yeah the Parmenion place is okay, but I've heard great things about this new Palestinian restaurant!"

This is just how humans behave, but many would protest at such a characterization.

No, it's religious & racial affiliation rather than "mood". It's so disappointing that you introduced a useful & overlooked concept and then proceeded to muddy it with more familiar ingroup vs outgroup dynamics.

“Scholars of foreign policy preference formation” - who knew that such useless folks existed?

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