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T. Clifton Morgan and Glenn Palmer
The “two-good theory” is a theory of foreign policy that is meant to apply to all states in all situations; that is, it is general. The theory is simple and assumes that states pursue two things in theory with respect to foreign policies: change (altering aspects of the status quo that they do not like) and maintenance (protecting aspects of the status quo that they do like). It also assumes that states have finite resources. In making these assumptions, the theory focuses on the trade-offs that states face in constructing their most desired foreign policy portfolios. Further, the theory assumes that protecting realized outcomes is easier than bringing about desired changes in the status quo.
The theory assumes that states pursue two goods instead of the more traditional one good; for realism, that good is “power,” and for neorealism, it is “security.” This small step in theoretical development is very fruitful and leads to more interesting hypotheses, many of which enjoy empirical support. The theory captures more of the dynamics of international relations and of foreign policy choices than more traditional approaches do.
A number of empirical tests of the implications of the two-good theory have been conducted and support the theory. As the theory can speak to a variety of foreign policy behaviors, these tests appropriately cover a wide range of activities, including conflict initiation and foreign aid allocation. The theory enjoys support from the results of these tests.
If the research relaxes some of the parameters of the theory, the investigator can derive a series of corollaries to it. For example, the initial variant of the theory keeps a number of parameters constant to determine the effect of changes in capability. If, however, the investigator allows preferences to vary in a systematic and justifiable manner (consistent with the theory but not established by the theory), she can see how leaders in a range of situations can be expected to behave. The research strategy proposed, in other words, is to utilize the general nature of the two-good theory to investigate a number of interesting and surprising implications. For example, what may one expect to see if the United States supplies a recipient state with military aid to counter a rebellion? Under reasonable circumstances, the two-good theory can predict that the recipient would increase its change-seeking behavior by, for instance, engaging in negotiations to lower trade barriers.
240 Years of Foreign Policy Moods in a Democracy Which Grew Into a Superpower: What It Means for IR Theory
Jack E. Holmes
In 1952, Frank L. Klingberg identified U.S. foreign policy moods since 1776 as alternating between an average of 21 years of introversion and 27 years of extroversion. The last extrovert phase had started in 1940, and it changed to introversion by 1968. By 1989, extroversion had returned. By 2016, it looks like introversion came back again. This is an excellent record of projection that calls for increased research by scholars.
In 1985, Jack Holmes related Klingberg’s moods to American Liberalism and argued that mood changes were required by tendencies of introversion and extroversion to reach extremes too far removed from the realist interests that a nation must pursue. Frank was kind enough to write the preface of my 1985 work, and we continued to meet annually at conventions to explore research possibilities through the last two decades of his life. Although he was from the liberal pre-WW II generation and I was from the realist post-WW II generation, we shared a common interest in American foreign policy moods since 1776 and the need for research by the community of scholars.
What do these moods mean? They consider one liberal democratic country while it grew from a peripheral power to a superpower over 240 years, and additional research regarding other countries would be beneficial. Given the concentration of major U.S. foreign policy assertiveness during extrovert phases as well as surprises and changes during mood transitions, moods need to be researched until they become part of the regular conversation regarding American Foreign Policy and IR theory. The evidence is strong and has been mostly developed by two authors. Klingberg deserves full credit for the original research and idea. The evidence has been expanded and placed in context by Holmes who analyzed Klingberg’s original idea as two different liberal preferences of the American people and related it to interests of nations. This liberal foreign policy variation (between introversion and extroversion) differs from the domestic policy variation (between reform liberal [often called liberal] and business liberal [often called conservative]) variation mentioned by Samuel Huntington in 1957. While individual domestic policy preferences usually stay the same, the United States as a whole varies on its introvert or extrovert foreign policy preference. Additional research on these moods is needed to enrich the literature.
Eugénia da Conceição-Heldt and Patrick A. Mello
Whether in multilateral negotiations or bilateral meetings, government leaders regularly engage in “two-level games” played simultaneously at the domestic and the international level. From the two-level-games perspective, executives are “chief negotiators” involved in some form of international negotiations for which they ultimately need to gain domestic approval at the ratification stage. This ratification requirement provides the critical link between the international and domestic level, but it can be based on formal voting requirements or more informal ways of ratification, such as public approval ratings. With its focus on government leaders as “gatekeepers” and central actors in international negotiations, the two-level games perspective constitutes a distinct approach in foreign policy analysis and serves to reintegrate the subfields of comparative politics and international relations. While there are similarities to a liberal perspective, two-level games emphasize that executives hold a certain degree of autonomy in their decision making that cannot be purely derived from their constituencies. Unlike realism, however, the approach recognizes the importance of domestic veto players and institutional constraints. Since its inception in the late 1980s, a vast body of literature on two-level games has evolved, including refinements of its theoretical foundation and applications in various policy areas. Against this background, key controversies in two-level games and foreign policy analysis since the late 1980s are examined. The discussion is organized along six debates concerning the levels of analysis, domestic political institutions, the interaction between the domestic and international levels, relevant actors, their interests and preferences, and the relationship between comparative politics and international relations.
Daniel C. Hallin
Typologies are a central tool of comparative analysis in the social sciences. Typologies identify common patterns in the relationships among elements of media systems and wider social systems, and serve to generate research questions about why particular patterns occur in particular systems, why particular cases may deviate from common patterns, and what the consequences of these patterns may be. They are important for specifying the context within which particular processes operate, and therefore for identifying possible system-level causes, specifying the scope of applicability of theories, and assessing the validity of measurements across systems. Typologies of media systems date to the publication of Four Theories of the Press, which proposed a typology of authoritarian, libertarian, social responsibility and Soviet Communist media systems. Hallin and Mancini’s typology of media systems in Western Europe and North America has influenced most recent work in comparative analysis of media systems. Hallin and Mancini proposed three models differentiated on the basis of four clusters of variables: the development of media markets; the degree and forms of political parallelism; journalistic professionalism; and the role of the state. Much recent research has been devoted to operationalizing these dimensions of comparison, and a number of revisions of Hallin and Mancini’s model and proposals for alternative approaches have been proposed. Researchers have also begun efforts to develop typologies including media systems outside of Western Europe and North America.
Research using variants of political settlement analysis have gained prominence in scholarship on Africa. Political settlement research provides an analytical lens that takes the researcher beyond a narrow focus on formal institutions to examine how distributions of power among groups affect the way that institutions work. A political settlement can be defined as a combination of power and institutions that is mutually compatible and also sustainable in terms of economic and political viability. The main theoretical building blocks of the framework are institutions, power, and rents. Despite its burgeoning influence as an analytical approach, existing literature contains considerable differences in the core concepts and causal mechanisms described as constituting a political settlement framework. There are key differences within the literature between research that conceptualizes political settlement as action and political settlement conceptualized as process. In understanding political settlement as process, a political settlement is conceptualized as a stable political order that has not necessarily been planned or consciously willed by different social groups. The outcomes intended from the adoption of any particular set of institutions cannot be taken for granted. Groups that may appear powerful in terms of their formal political and economic positions in society may not be able to actually enforce compliance with formal and informal institutions they desire, leading to a much more complex relationship between institutions and paths of political and economic change. Approaches that understand political settlement as action emphasize the role of agreements made by powerful groups or elites. Forging a viable and inclusive political settlement is treated as a desirable policy outcome where institutions that generate inclusion, stop war, or reduce violent conflict can be purposefully established and enforced by elites. The two versions of the framework have been deployed to explore a range of different phenomena including economic change and industrialization, corruption, social policy, conflict, and state-building in a number of African countries. A key insight of the political settlement framework is that it provides many new insights into the variation between political economies on the continent. However, it is crucial that those seeking either to deploy or to critique the framework recognize the diverse way in which concepts and underlying causal processes have been defined. Such tensions within the framework can be important for driving research and thinking forward.
The past four decades have witnessed an explosion of research into ethnic conflict. The overarching question addressed in the voluminous and still growing literature is this: Under what cultural, social, economic, political, and international conditions is ethnic conflict or peace more likely? Limiting my survey to the onset of ethnic war, I divide the literature into four waves and critically examine its theoretical and empirical progress.
I contend that the field has indeed made impressive progress, both theoretically and empirically. Theoretically, the field has moved well beyond the unproductive debate of the three paradigms (i.e., primordialism, instrumentalism, and constructivism), and there is an emerging consensus that we need to draw valid elements from all three paradigms and beyond. In addition, neo-institutionalism has (re-)emerged as a major approach in the field. Empirically, powered by increasingly sophisticated methods and technologies such as the Geography Information System (GIS) and the availability of more and better datasets, inquiries into ethnic conflict have not only ventured into exciting new territories but also gained deeper and fine-grained knowledge into the causes of ethnic war.
I then highlight several recent studies that bring out impressive theoretical and empirical syntheses that may well portend better things to come.
Finally, I identify several venues for further scientific progress, including tighter coupling between theorization and empirical hypotheses, getting the basics of methods right, gathering more fine-grained data that measure the level of ethnic politics, bringing together ethnic politics and other key topics in the wide social sciences, and forecasting the risk of ethnic war based on computational social sciences.
Cyanne E. Loyle
How and why do governments choose the strategies that they do during armed conflict? While there is a substantial body of research on the use of different tactics by governments and rebels during armed conflict, this work has rarely made an attempt to engage with scholars of different tactics in order to develop a broader understanding of how and why actors make the behavioral choices that they do and how these choices advance certain intended strategies. Furthermore, the work across tactics does not have unified findings. Understanding both the range of behaviors by conflict actors and the motivations for these behaviors is an important and necessary step for understanding the course of armed conflict more generally and for developing relevant policy aimed at changing these behaviors.
Within existing literature on belligerent tactics, important lessons about government behaviors and why these specific behaviors are selected can be distilled. Objectives, strategies, and tactics should be disaggregated in order to think through the implications of different government decisions for understanding or changing behavior. This disaggregation aids us in identifying the areas of research in which we have confirmed findings and those questions regarding government behavior that require additional investigation. Moving forward we could and should develop a systematic list of the types of factors that impact certain behavioral choices, across tactics, but this is most useful if we can then link these factors to an understanding of the broader objectives and strategies that a government is trying to pursue.
James H. Lebovic
Since the Cold War’s end, academics and policy analysts alike have described the international system as unipolar. The term’s use appears well grounded. The United States possesses exceptional relative capabilities by historical standards, with capabilities—including control of the skies—that were unimaginable under British, Dutch, Spanish, and Portuguese hegemony. The system seems unipolar then when assessed using a common method for discerning polarity: counting the number of unusually powerful countries in the system. But the numerical case for U.S. preeminence is far easier to make than a logical argument for judging the number of poles in the system. Logic actually suffers considerably when analysts base their thinking about unipolarity on the common assumptions that (a) the Cold War-era international system was bipolar, (b) the current system is unipolar, (c) polarity is discernable from aggregate capabilities, and (d) polarity is detectable in interstate behavior.
The European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) are expressions of a rules-based global order. The EU has enshrined support to the UN in its security strategies, and its priorities indicate an engagement in a wide range of UN programs and activities to maintain the rules-based order and adapt it to face internal and external challenges. The EU and its member states are the largest contributors to the UN budget. Following the adoption of the Lisbon treaty, the EU has increased its representation at the UN, gaining enhanced observer status in the General Assembly. However, because of the intergovernmental nature of the forum, only its member states have the right to vote. This has led scholars to investigate the actorness of the EU at the UN through the analysis of the voting cohesion of EU member states in the General Assembly. Less attention has been paid to the behavior of EU member states in the Security Council.
Existing scholarship has tended to analyze how the EU acts within the UN more than inter-organizational cooperation. However, the contribution of the EU and its member states to UN activities in the area of peace and security maintenance is particularly relevant and is a reminder that inter-organizational cooperation deserve greater attention than the one it has received so far.
Naeem Inayatullah and David L. Blaney
Heterodox work in Global Political Economy (GPE) finds its motive force in challenging the ontological atomism of International Political Economy (IPE) orthodoxy. Various strains of heterodoxy that have grown out of dependency theory and World-Systems Theory (WST), for example, emphasize the social whole: Individual parts are given form and meaning within social relations of domination produced by a history of violence and colonial conquest. An atomistic approach, they stress, seems designed to ignore this history of violence and relations of domination by making bargaining among independent units the key to explaining the current state of international institutions. For IPE, it is precisely this atomistic approach, largely inspired by the ostensible success of neoclassical economics, which justifies its claims to scientific rigor. International relations can be modeled as a market-like space, in which individual actors, with given preferences and endowments, bargain over the character of international institutional arrangements. Heterodox scholars’ treatment of social processes as indivisible wholes places them beyond the pale of acceptable scientific practice. Heterodoxy appears, then, as the constitutive outside of IPE orthodoxy.
Heterodox GPE perhaps reached its zenith in the 1980s. Just as heterodox work was being cast out from the temple of International Relations (IR), heterodox scholars, building on earlier work, produced magisterial studies that continue to merit our attention. We focus on three texts: K. N. Chaudhuri’s Asia Before Europe (1990), Eric Wolf’s Europe and the People Without History (1982), and L. S. Stavrianos’s Global Rift (1981). We select these texts for their temporal and geographical sweep and their intellectual acuity. While Chaudhuri limits his scope to the Indian Ocean over a millennium, Wolf and Stavrianos attempt an anthropology and a history, respectively, of European expansion, colonialism, and the rise of capitalism in the modern era. Though the authors combine different elements of material, political, and social life, all three illustrate the power of seeing the “social process” as an “indivisible whole,” as Schumpeter discusses in the epigram below. “Economic facts,” the region, or time period they extract for detailed scrutiny are never disconnected from the “great stream” or process of social relations. More specifically, Chaudhuri’s work shows notably that we cannot take for granted the distinct units that comprise a social whole, as does the IPE orthodoxy. Rather, such units must be carefully assembled by the scholar from historical evidence, just as the institutions, practices, and material infrastructure that comprise the unit were and are constructed by people over the longue durée. Wolf starts with a world of interaction, but shows that European expansion and the rise and spread of capitalism intensified cultural encounters, encompassing them all within a global division of labor that conditioned the developmental prospects of each in relation to the others. Stavrianos carries out a systematic and relational history of the First and Third Worlds, in which both appear as structural positions conditioned by a capitalist political economy. By way of conclusion, we suggest that these three works collectively inspire an effort to overcome the reification and dualism of agents and structures that inform IR theory and arrive instead at “flow.”
Marcelo Lopes de Souza
If environmental activism revolves around problems and challenges related to the socioecological context of a collectivity (that is, the material framework in which it exists, from the point of view of access to resources and infrastructure, conditions of public health ,and embeddedness in ecosystems and naturogenic processes and dynamics), urban environmental activism can be characterized as activism in which the agendas, actors, and conflicts involved are specifically related to the urban space and its peculiarities, considered from a broad socioecological perspective.
Considering the immense body of literature that has accumulated over the last 30 years on the environmental problems of Latin America, it is disappointing to see that only a comparatively small part of it refers specifically to urban environmental conflicts and activism. This is disturbing, because already in 2007, 78% of Latin America’s population lived in cities or other geographical entities classified as urban. Moreover, although in some core capitalist countries, too, there are many kinds of urban environmental problems, caused by omission, irresponsibility, or structural causes linked to class differences and asymmetries of power, Latin American problems and conflicts—above all those related to environmental injustice—are far more dramatic. Symptomatically, environmental struggles have been massive and have typically involved basic rights and the non-satisfaction of basic needs in the cities of the region.
At the end of the day, it is clear that there have always been two basic types of urban environmental activism in Latin America: on the one side, a kind of environmental activism (and ecological discourse) that masks contradictions and class struggle, as it adopts a strict “preservationist” perspective that reveals itself to be insensitive to human needs and rights; on the other side, however, there are radical social struggles that are at the same time environmental struggles, particularly those explicitly or implicitly related to environmental justice. This diversity demonstrates both the richness and the contradictions of a contested sociopolitical landscape, where terms like sustainability and environmental protection have been instrumentalized for different, sometimes mutually incompatible, purposes.
In Latin America, urban popular movements emerged in the late 1940s as thousands of low-income migrants and city residents banded together to claim land, build self-help housing, and forge neighborhood organizations that fomented community participation and mobilized to demand land titles and city services. These neighborhoods were characterized by informal housing; inadequate provision of electricity, water, sanitation, transportation, and social services; and informal employment and underemployment. During the authoritarianism of the 1960s and 1970s, some urban popular movements resisted military dictatorship while others forged clientelist ties. Democratic and authoritarian leaders alike were forced to deal with the steady influx of rural migrants to cities, and regimes of all types often came to view informal neighborhoods founded by urban popular movements as an acceptable solution to some of the challenges of urbanization. In the 1980s and 1990s, neoliberal privatization of public utilities and cuts to social safety nets harmed urban popular movements, but national and local democratization expanded some avenues of participation, and the regional trend of urban popular movements expanded in numbers and extended its geographic reach. In the 2000s, socialist “Pink Tide” governments delivered benefits to low-income sectors, and many popular sectors supported these leftist regimes. Material gains proved modest, however, and state-movement alliances were rocky, leaving urban popular movements in the awkward position of being dissatisfied with national leadership, yet preferring the Pink Tide incumbents to most alternatives. And in the 2010s, a new “right turn” emerged, as conservative leaders replaced many Pink Tide presidents, threatening to reintroduce the repressive over-policing of popular sectors. Throughout these periods, the core conceptual identity of some urban popular movements shifted from the poblador (the “founder” seeking to meet his or her family’s needs) to the vecino (the “neighbor” collaborating with other movement participants through collective efforts), to the ciudadano (the empowered “citizen” who recognizes his or her needs as rights to be secured through political engagement).
Rafael Piñeiro Rodríguez and Fabrizio Scrollini Mendez
Uruguay is considered one of the most democratic, transparent, and stable countries in the world, an outlier in the Latin American context. The institutionalized nature of Uruguay’s party system contributed significantly to democracy, but was not sufficient to prevent a military dictatorship period in the context of the Cold War (1973–1984). Eventually, the political party system adapted to accommodate the emergence of the Broad Front (left), which gained the most votes of any political party in 1999 and won the election in 2005. The recent wave of progressive reforms in Uruguay, such as the introduction of universal healthcare, abortion laws, same-sex marriage laws, and cannabis legalization can be explained by the strong links political parties (particularly on the left) maintain with social movements. Further, this link also helps to explain the legitimacy that political parties still retain in Uruguay. Nevertheless, Uruguayan democracy faces challenges in terms of transparency, equality, and the risk of democratic “deconsolidation.”
Stephen L. Quackenbush and Thomas R. Guarrieri
Foreign policy analysis has been used effectively to explain the use of force. Several leading approaches and paradigms help explain the use of force as a tool of foreign policy. These approaches are based on the important preliminary step of opening up the black box of state, which highlights the importance of decision making for explaining international politics. The two primary approaches to explaining foreign policy analysis are rational choice theory and psychological theories.
Foreign policy analysis opens the door to a variety of novel and interesting topics. Many topics of domestic politics relate to international conflict, including democratic peace theory, selectorate theory, public opinion, domestic institutions, and leaders. Each of these topics is important for explaining the use of force in foreign policy. Future research on the use of force and international conflict should account for the importance of domestic politics. Studies of leaders, selectorate theory, and the bargaining model of war provide especially promising avenues for future research.
Kevin Arceneaux and Martin Johnson
Students of public opinion tend to focus on how exposure to political media, such as news coverage and political advertisements, influences the political choices that people make. However, the expansion of news and entertainment choices on television and via the Internet makes the decisions that people make about what to consume from various media outlets a political choice in its own right. While the current day hyperchoice media landscape opens new avenues of research, it also complicates how we should approach, conduct, and interpret this research. More choices means greater ability to choose media content based on one’s political preferences, exacerbating the severity of selection bias and endogeneity inherent in observational studies. Traditional randomized experiments offer compelling ways to obviate these challenges to making valid causal inferences, but at the cost of minimizing the role that agency plays in how people make media choices.
Resent research modifies the traditional experimental design for studying media effects in ways that incorporate agency over media content. These modifications require researchers to consider different trade-offs when choosing among different design features, creating both advantages and disadvantages. Nonetheless, this emerging line of research offers a fresh perspective on how people’s media choices shapes their reaction to media content and political decisions.
Yotam Shmargad and Samara Klar
The field of political science is experiencing a new proliferation of experimental work, thanks to a growth in online experiments. Administering traditional experimental methods over the Internet allows for larger and more accessible samples, quick response times, and new methods for treating subjects and measuring outcomes. As we show in this chapter, a rapidly growing proportion of published experiments in political science take advantage of an array of sophisticated online tools. Indeed, during a relatively short period of time, political scientists have already made huge gains in the sophistication of what can be done with just a simple online survey experiment, particularly in realms of inquiry that have traditionally been logistically difficult to study. One such area is the important topic of social interaction. Whereas experimentalists once relied on resource- and labor-intensive face-to-face designs for manipulating social settings, creative online efforts and accessible platforms are making it increasingly easy for political scientists to study the influence of social settings and social interactions on political decision-making. In this chapter, we review the onset of online tools for carrying out experiments and we turn our focus toward cost-effective and user-friendly strategies that online experiments offer to scholars who wish to not only understand political decision-making in isolated settings but also in the company of others. We review existing work and provide guidance on how scholars with even limited resources and technical skills can exploit online settings to better understand how social factors change the way individuals think about politicians, politics, and policies.
Kai Oppermann and Klaus Brummer
The main contribution of veto player approaches in Comparative Politics has been to the study of policy stability and change. Specifically, the argument is that the possibility and conditions for policy change in a given polity and issue area depend on the configuration of veto players and veto points. Most notably, veto player approaches have introduced a general conceptual tool kit that has facilitated the comparative analysis of the dynamics and obstacles of policy change across (democratic and non-democratic) regime types and public policy areas. However, in Foreign Policy Analysis (FPA), references to veto players and veto points tend to be hardly systematic and are mainly used to highlight domestic constraints on preference formation, decision-making, or responses to international crises. Hence, the theoretical and empirical potential of veto player approaches for FPA has not yet been systematically explored. Against this background, the article makes the case that “taking veto players seriously” has a lot to offer to the study of foreign policy. While there are differences between applying veto player approaches in public policy and in FPA (e.g., with respect to the more informal process of foreign policy decision-making or the larger policy discretion of the agenda setter in foreign policy), those differences must not be overdone. Indeed, they point to certain shifts in emphasis and specific methodological challenges for veto player studies in foreign policy, but do not call into question the basic explanatory logic of veto player approaches or their transferability from one field to the other. What is more, the article shows that multiple links between veto player approaches and FPA theories can be established. Generally speaking, veto player approaches have immense potential in reinvigorating comparative foreign policy analysis. More specifically, they can be linked up to FPA works on the role of parliaments, coalitions, or leadership styles as well as on those discussing change, effectiveness, or fiascos in foreign policy.
Action readiness is considered a central property of emotions in most psychological theories. Emotions are the engine of behavior. They are the motivating, directing, prioritizing function of the brain, and impel to an immediate reaction to challenges and opportunities faced by the organism. Nevertheless, under sociopolitical malaise, emotions do not always lead to action.
People leave in societies characterized by particular emotional cultures, climates, and atmospheres that set the background to what emotions are felt under which circumstances. The impact of an emotion depends on how relevant, that is, emotionally significant is the event for the individual; on the implications of the event for the person’s well-being and immediate or long-term goals; on the individual’s capacity to cope with or adjust to the consequences of the event; and on the significance of the event with respect to individual and collective self-concept and to social norms and values.
Although emotions trigger action, events with high emotional intensity may mobilize defense mechanisms that distort facts, so that the event may appear distant or not concerning the individual personally. In such cases action is hindered because the meaning of the emotive event, although fully intellectually understood, does not have personal emotional reality. If the defense mechanisms prove inefficient or collapse, the event may be experienced as traumatic, that is, as a shocking occurrence that brings about a rupture in the continuity of existence, numbing of senses and mental faculties, and inability to think about what happened for periods that may last from days to years, although individuals and collectives may appear quite normal in carrying out everyday routines.
Interpretative “emotion work” in formal or informal contexts may change emotions from immobilizing to mobilizing, or from destructive to constructive, as the traumatic event is being “worked through” and a cohesive narrative about it develops. But even then, action and in our case, political action, depends on the individual’s available repertoire—political efficacy and resilience—built up from past recoveries and a sense of support from social networks, and hope in assessing the costs and benefits from the harms brought by acting and the harms brought by non-acting.
Gabrielle S. Bardall
This article presents a conceptual orientation to the intersection of gender, politics, and violence. The first part of the article will introduce the subject by reviewing the primary conceptual framework and empirical knowledge on the topic to date and discussing the theoretical heritage of the concept. Establishing a key distinction between gender-motivated and gender differentiated violence, this article will discuss the gender dimensions of political violence and the political dimensions of gender-based violence. The latter half of the article reviews a number of the key questions driving research and dialogue in the field in the 21st century.
Contemporary political information processing and the subsequent decision-making mechanisms are suboptimal. Average voters usually have but vague notions of politics and cannot be said to be motivated to invest considerable amount of times to make up their minds about political affairs; furthermore, political information is not only complex and virtually infinite but also often explicitly designed to deceive and persuade by triggering unconscious mechanisms in those exposed to it. In this context, how can voters sample, process, and transform the political information they receive into reliable political choices? Two broad set of dynamics are at play. On the one hand, individual differences determine how information is accessed and processed: different personality traits set incentives (and hurdles) for information processing, the availability of information heuristics and the motivation to treat complex information determine the preference between easy and good decisions, and partisan preferences establish boundaries for information processing and selective exposure. On the other hand, and beyond these individual differences, the content of political information available to citizens drives decision-making: the alleged “declining quality” of news information poses threats for comprehensive and systematic reasoning; excessive negativity in electoral campaigns drives cynicism (but also attention); and the use of emotional appeals increases information processing (anxiety), decreases interest and attention (rage), and strengthens the reliance on individual predispositions (enthusiasm).
At the other end of the decisional process, the quality of the choices made (Was the decision supported by “ambivalent” opinions? And to what extent was the decision “correct”?) is equally hard to assess, and fundamental normative questions come into play.