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Culture Clash or Democratic Peace?: Results of a Survey Experiment on the Effect of Religious Culture and Regime Type on Foreign Policy Opinion Formation


  • Author's note. Experiment conducted by Time-sharing Experiments for the Social Sciences, NSF Grant 0094964, Diana C. Mutz and Arthur Lupia, Principal Investigators. An earlier version was presented at the 2009 meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association. We thank John Bullock, Claudine Gay, Gary Segura, Mike Tomz, Jonathan Wand, and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments.


We extend the logic of the democratic peace to query whether information about a foreign country's regime type affects US citizens' opinions of that country. We contrast this with the suggestion in other areas of international relations theorizing, such as the “clash of civilizations” thesis and constructivist frameworks, that a country's culture, especially its dominant religious tradition, may be more salient in citizen attitudes toward foreign countries. We designed a survey experiment to test the effects of randomly assigned cues regarding the regime type (democracy/nondemocracy) and religious culture (Islam/Christianity) of a foreign country on respondents' attitudes. Religious cultural cues outperformed regime type cues in determining respondents' perceptions of threat or expressions of trust, but respondents' views did not conform to maximalist claims of either the democratic peace or the clash of civilizations frameworks. These findings suggest that the need for a more synergetic approach to understanding the microfoundations of public foreign policy opinion formation.