Current Research

Polarized by Moderates (Under review, with Darrell Carter, Naseem Benjelloun, Dhritiman Banerjee, and Sydney Cervantes)

Polls reveal an increasing ideological polarization in recent decades, and this trend is attributed mainly to the polarizing die-hard partisans. However, the mainstream measures on ideological polarization, including the mean difference and overlap measure, ignore how moderates may indirectly contribute to the polarization by leaving or (re)joining the parties. This article disentangles existing measures and mathematically distinguishes how partisans and nonpartisans contribute to polarization, respectively. The revised measures are applied to four panel surveys: ANES1992-1996 (n=588), ANES1994-1996 (n=1302), ANES2000-2002 (n=412), and ANES2016-2020 (n=1977). The result shows that loyal partisans only account for 5% to 50% of the overall changes in polarization we observed previously, and the remains are explained by detaching nonpartisans and newcoming partisans, who are usually ideologically moderates. The results and new measures offer insights into examining the heterogeneity of polarizations over time and help form new strategies for dealing with polarization.

Asymmetric Blame-Shifting in the era of Globalization (under review, with Jacob Cox)

In the globalization era, ruling parties are motivated to shift the blame for poor economic performance to external factors. While motivated reasoning explains how partisans update their blame attribution to the ruling party, it fails to predict whether the blame really shifted to the external factor which voters have no direct influence on. Meanwhile, the incumbent’s excuse also implies that this issue cannot be solved by its own democratic system, lowering people’s democratic belief. This article examines this asymmetric blame-shifting hypothesis and its negative impact through two pre-registered survey experiments on Amazon MTurk (n = 802 and 999) after the 2022 midterm election. After reading Biden’s accusation that Putin caused inflation, Democrats and Republicans polarized their blame attribution on Biden. Meanwhile, their blame on Putin remains unchanged in both Study 1 and 2, implying that the blame did not shift “to” or “from” the external factor. Meanwhile, Study 2 offers limited evidence that Republicans lower their democratic belief after receiving the Biden’s excuse. Our findings suggest that politicians may play an active role in the rise of populism during globalization, and that voters may have different psychological mechanisms on forming their blame toward domestic and external factors.  

Political Opportunity Structure Moderates the Legacy of Political Violence (under review)

Previous studies render contradictory evidence linking political repression before and political participation after democratization. This article suggests that the perceived political opportunity structure moderates the effect of political violence: victims, their predecessors, and neighbors will punish the authoritarian successor party only if their district is not dominated by it. If the authoritarian successor party is perceived to win, voters would instead vote for the party. This article examines the hypothesis through the unique political context in Taiwan, where the former authoritarian party KMT is still competitive after the democratization and keeps ruling in some districts. Analysis of a newly published White Terror Dataset including 13,206 victims during the martial law period (1949-1987) shows that, if one district has more White Terror victims, KMT receives even more votes in KMT-dominated districts and even fewer votes in districts where KMT did not dominate. The psychological mechanism of this moderation effect is then supported by a pre-registered survey experiment (n = 910) in Taiwan, showing that the White Terror priming increases KMT’s vote share when KMT already leads in the poll. The result helps reconcile previous findings in the literature and explain the resilience of authoritarian successor parties in new democracies.

Economic Patronage and Issue Linkage (under review)

Economic patronage is when a powerful donor country renders additional economic benefits beyond regular trades to attract another weak recipient country to alter its political position. Why do some donors offer patronages (China to Taiwan after 2008) while others do not (US to Cuba after 1996)? Why do some patronages succeed (EU to Rwanda after 2012) while others fail (China to Taiwan in 2014)? This article provides a new incomplete information model formalizing economic patronages and issue linkages. The powerful donor may not offer patronages if it perceives its weakness or if the recipient is resilient. The weak recipient may accept patronages but does not alter its position if it perceives that the donor may not take revenge. The powerful donor’s “paper tiger” mechanism and the weak recipient’s “opportunism” mechanism are further supported by the empirical analysis of ANES2008 and a representative survey in Taiwan in 2012.

Strategic Ambiguity, Strategic Clarity, and Dual Clarity (with Yao-yuan Yeh, Fang-yu Chen, and Charles Wu, review and resubmitted)

The U.S. had successfully intervened and prevented the military conflict between China and Taiwan since the 1980s by the Strategic Ambiguity (SA) policy, which discourages both sides from deviating from the status quo (SQ) by not committing to defend or not to defend Taiwan. The recent US-China tensions and the increasing nationalism in China and Taiwan drew critics to SA and suggested it be replaced with strategic clarity. We argue that the choice of Dual Clarity (DC) – the US promises to defend only if Taiwan did not provoke first – is widely ignored. We develop an updated game-theoretical model incorporating the rising nationalism in China and Taiwan and examine the psychological motivations through a pre-registered within-subject survey experiment in Taiwan (n=910). The model indicates that DC’s capacity to maintain the SQ is the same as S, and the survey confirms our theoretical expectations.

Undertow in Taiwan: Nationalism and Calculation of the cross-strait Relations (2002-2022) (with Yao-yuan Yeh, Fang-yu Chen, and Charles Wu, review and resubmitted)

Literature highlights the conflicting trends between rising nationalism and stable preferences on Cross-Strait relations in Taiwan. This article unveils new insights from the Taiwan National Security Survey (2002-2022, 14 waves, n = 16,494) to unravel this incompatibility. The survey employed “conditional preference” items to capture how Taiwanese people shape their Cross-Strait attitudes. Since 2002, Taiwanese identifiers have increased steadily, while dual identifiers have decreased. Most respondents still prefer the status quo, but there is a gradual rise in support for independence. Hypothetical scenarios reveal that a majority support independence if China will not attack, and oppose unification if China and Taiwan differ economically and politically. Furthermore, the percentage supporting independence given China will attack is increasing, while the percentage supporting unification if China and Taiwan are similar has considerably decreased. Conditional preferences are influenced by perceived economic benefits from China and the military strength of China, Taiwan, and the US.