Gender, Events, and Elite Messages in Mass Opinion on Foreign Relations
Do women respond in different ways to foreign policy events and elite messages compared to men? This article integrates the literature on gender and conflict with that on public opinion to examine how gender matters for the effect of elite messages and national security events on public opinion regarding a foreign adversary. We theorize that women’s opinions of an adversary are more likely than men’s to be influenced by national security events because of the higher value they attach to the costs of conflict. Our empirical analysis takes advantage of the natural setting of inter-Korea relations, which includes unpredictable, thus plausibly exogenous, real-world national security events instigated by North Korea and contrasting messages regarding North Korea by South Korea’s elites during this timeframe. Using annual survey data from a nationally representative sample of South Koreans about attitudes toward North Korea from 2003 to 2016, we find that foreign policy events of high consequence for national security have a greater negative impact on women’s opinions. This is the case even in the face of positive elite messages that contradict those events.
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