International Society of Political Psychology

Conference Abstracts

Identity Alignment and Strength of Conviction: The Symbiotic Relationship Between Foreign Policies a

Kizzy Gandy, Australian National University

Conference: ISPP 2011
Affiliation: Australian National University
Research Area: Social inequality and social change

This paper contributes to understanding of the relationship between foreign policies and public opinion. The focus is on foreign aid policies in advanced democracies. The constructivist perspective in international relations maintains that foreign policies are a reflection of state identity. State identity is defined by the policies that distinguish a state from other states, as well as domestic culture. In contrast, self-categorisation theory in social psychology maintains that the policy preferences of citizens are a reflection of the various identities that constitute their self-concept (self-definition). Personal and social identities are defined by attributes that distinguish individuals and groups from other individuals and groups respectively. In addition, there is a shared higher-order identity (the superordinate context) which all lower identities accept and contribute to. By integrating the constructivist notion of state identity, and the notion of levels of identity from self-categorization theory, a symbiotic relationship between policy outcomes and public opinion is proposed. The paper argues that state identity is internalised as a higher-order identity within the self-concept of citizens. Thus, foreign policies have a top-down impact on public opinion. Furthermore, personal and social identities vary amongst citizens within the state. Thus, citizen agency has a bottom-up impact on foreign policies. For thirteen countries, survey data and policy data are used to measure personal and social identities and state identities respectively. Regression analyses with cross-level interactions show that the alignment of support for aid over different levels of identity strengthens the conviction. Accordingly, opportunities and constraints in policy reform are discussed.