Foreign pressure and public opinion in target states

Masaru Kohno, Gabriella R. Montinola, Matthew S. Winters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To influence states’ treatment of their citizens, various foreign actors deploy a broad array of tools, including moral suasion and material assistance. The efficacy of international pressure is often contingent on how publics in target states respond. Employing survey experiments, we examine how two common tools of external influence employed by other countries —verbal condemnation and the threat of aid withdrawal—affect public opinion in three Asian states that have been criticized for their human rights practices: Myanmar, Nepal, and Indonesia. Overall, we find that, in the face of such pressure, preference for the status quo policy becomes stronger among the supporters of incumbent governments in target states. In contrast, those who are not government partisans are more likely to support policy change for better human rights conditions. The latter, however, is the constituency less likely to exert influence on the government to revise its policy. Together, these findings point to the possibility that criticism and aid sanction threats employed by foreign countries will be ineffective or even counterproductive at least in the short run.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106305
JournalWorld Development
StatePublished - Sep 2023


  • Asia
  • Foreign aid withdrawal
  • Public opinion
  • Sanctions
  • Survey experiment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics


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