Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Both left and right tend to perceive tweets that contradict their own political views as outpourings of bots

Political Bot Bias in the Perception of Online Discourse. Shane Schweitzer, Kyle S. H. Dobson, and Adam Waytz. Social Psychological and Personality Science, February 27, 2023. https://doi.org/10.1177/19485506231156020

Abstract: Four nationally representative studies (N = 1,986; three preregistered) find evidence for a bias in how people perceive opposing viewpoints expressed through online discourse. These studies elucidate a political bot bias, where political partisans (vs. their out-party) are more likely to view counter-ideological (vs. ideologically consistent) tweets to be social media bots (vs. humans). Study 1 demonstrates that American Democrats and Republicans are more likely to attribute tweets to bots when those tweets express counter-ideological views. Study 2 demonstrated this bias with actual bot tweets generated by the Russian government and comparable human tweets. Study 3 demonstrated this bias manifests in the context of real recent elections and is associated with markers of political animosity. Study 4 experimentally demonstrates the consequences of bot attribution for perceptions of online political discourse. Our findings document a consistent bias that has implications for political discussion online and political polarization more broadly.

Monday, February 27, 2023

We found that a large proportion of Japanese women and men report that they have never had sexual intercourse

Sexual Behaviors among Individuals Aged 20-49 in Japan: Initial Findings from a Quasi-Representative National Survey, 2022. Cyrus Ghaznavi et al. The Journal of Sex Research, Feb 26 2023. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2023.2178614

Abstract: Nationally representative data on sexual health and behaviors in Japan are scarce. We conducted an online survey, including questions about a range of topics related to sexual behaviors and outcomes. The sample, including 8000 men and women aged 20–49 years in Japan, was stratified by sex and weighted with respect to age, marital status, and region of residence to reflect the population of Japan. Of the women, 82.9% and 10.0% reported that they were heterosexual and asexual, respectively; corresponding proportions for men were 87.4% and 6.9%. 15.3% of women and 19.8% of men reported never having had any partners with whom they engaged in vaginal, anal, or oral sex. 45.3% of women and 44.5% of men reported not having had any sexual partners during the past year; this proportion was highest among women aged 40–49 years (51.7%) and men aged 20–29 years (55.1%). The proportion of those reporting satisfaction with their sex life was 27.8% for women and 23.1% for men; 17.6% of women and 27.1% of men reported dissatisfaction. Pornography use of ≥3 times per week was most common among those aged 20–29 years (6.5% of women; 34.8% of men), and the frequency of pornography use decreased slightly with age. 4.0% of women and 48.3% of men reported ever having used commercial sex worker services in their lifetime. This survey-based study provides data on sexual behaviors and health outcomes in Japan. Compared to other high-income countries, levels of sexual inexperience and inactivity seem to be high in Japan.


This quasi-representative national survey including women and men aged 20–49 years in Japan aimed to address the scarcity of data available on sexual health outcomes, behaviors, and wellbeing in the country. Below we describe our main findings.

Sexual Inexperience

We found that a large proportion of Japanese women and men report that they have never had sexual intercourse. The proportion reporting that they had zero lifetime sexual intercourse partners was around 30% for women and 43% for men aged 20–29 years, 14% for women and 17% for men aged 30–39 years, and 7% for both women and men aged 40–49 years. These proportions were higher than those previously reported using data from the National Fertility Survey in Japan conducted in 2015 (Ghaznavi et al., Citation2019), in which 12% of women and 13% of men aged 30–34 years and 9% of women and 10% of men aged 35–39 years reported no experience of heterosexual intercourse (data on non-heterosexual experience were not available). The findings of the two studies are compatible with the hypothesis that sexual inexperience has increased between 2015 and 2022, consistent with an increasing trend in sexual inexperience observed among women and men in their 30s in six rounds of the National Fertility Survey from 1992 to 2015 (Ghaznavi et al., Citation2019). Sexual inexperience across age groups may have been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic and associated social distancing measures. In fact, a decrease in the frequency of sexual intercourse during the pandemic in Japan has been previously reported (Kitamura et al., Citation2021). However, the differences between these studies could also be explained by how study participants were recruited: the National Fertility Survey was carried out by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare and used a population-based sample of participants who were actively recruited by the investigators while we aimed to recruit a nationally representative sample from individuals who had volunteered to answer survey questions online. There may also have been differences in how participants reported their sexual experience, and the questions regarding sexual experience were differently phrased in the two surveys. Nonetheless, these findings lend further support to the notion that levels of sexual inexperience could be higher in Japan as compared to many Western countries (Jorgensen et al., Citation2015; Mercer et al., Citation2021; New Zealand Ministry of Health, Citation2019; Rissel et al., Citation2014). However, most studies on sexual inexperience in Western countries were conducted several years ago and it is possible that levels of sexual inexperience among adults in the US and Europe are catching up with those of Japan. For example, the nationally representative online survey Natsal-COVID, conducted in 2020, found indications of an increase in sexual inexperience in Britain as compared with the previous Natsal-3 study from 2010–2011: in Natsal-COVID, 27% of women and 28% of men aged 18–24, 10% of women and 7% of men aged 25–34, and 11% of women and 8% of men aged 35–44 years reported never having had partnered sex (Mercer et al., Citation2021), although it should be noted that some of these numbers are incompatible with the lower levels of sexual inexperience reported by the same birth cohorts when sampled 10 years earlier in the Natsal-3 study. Moreover, differences in sampling methods and response rates (the Japanese National Fertility Survey has a response rate of 70.0–92.5% as compared to 30–40% in many Western surveys; Mercer et al., Citation2013; Public Health Agency of Sweden, Citation2019; Ueda et al., Citation2020), how questions regarding sexual inexperience are phrased and perceived, and whether the data were gathered through interviews or questionnaires, may also partially explain the differences. Furthermore, sexual inexperience and inactivity is widely discussed in the public sphere and considered to be common in Japan (Ghaznavi et al., Citation2020; Kitamura, Citation2011). It is possible that social desirability bias is less pronounced among study participants without sexual experience in Japan.

While nationally representative data are not available, it is possible that other East Asian countries have rates of sexual inexperience comparable to those of Japan. For example, in a survey of undergraduates aged 15–24 years (mean 20 years) conducted in China in 2019, 86% of women and 73% of men reported having no experience of sexual intercourse (Lyu et al., Citation2020), and the median age of sexual debut in our Japanese sample (20 years) was similar to values reported by limited surveys from South Korea and China (Park et al., Citation2021; Zhang, Citation2020). Furthermore, in a national survey in India from 2019–2021, 3% of women and 11% of men aged 30–34 and 1% of women and 4% of men aged 35–39 reported having no experience of sexual intercourse (Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Citation2021).

Sexual Inactivity

We found that 42% of women and 55% of men aged 20–29 years reported having had no sexual partners during the past year. These proportions are higher than those reported in comparable studies from other countries before the pandemic. For example, in nationally representative US data from 2016–2018, the proportion reporting no partnered sexual activity in the past year was around 20% for women and 30% for men aged 18–24 years and 14% for men and 13% for women aged 25–34 years (Ueda et al., Citation2020). In a national survey in Germany from 2016, around 20% of both men and women aged 18–30 years reported no sexual activity in the past year (Beutel et al., Citation2018; Burghardt et al., Citation2020). A Danish study from 2012 found that among those aged 15–29, around 4% of women and 8% of men reported zero sexual partners in the past year (Jorgensen et al., Citation2015), and in a British study from the same year, around 10% of men and women aged 20–29 years were sexually inactive (Ueda & Mercer, Citation2019). However, comparisons with our findings should be done with caution due to differences between surveys in sampling methods, response rates, the phrasing of questions, and potential cultural differences affecting self-reported sexual activity. Importantly, the data from these previous studies were collected before the COVID-19 pandemic. In the British Natsal-COVID study, over 40% of women and men aged 18–24 and around 25% of women and men aged 25–34 reported no partnered sexual activity during the up to 4 months that had passed between society going into “lockdown” and study participation (Mercer et al., Citation2021).

Sexual Orientation, Including Asexuality, Importance of Sex and Sexual Satisfaction

A substantial proportion of women (15%) and men (11%) aged 20–29 years responded that they were asexual. While this proportion decreased slightly with age, it is manyfold higher than the prevalence of asexuality (<1%) reported in countries such as Britain (Aicken et al., Citation2013) and Sweden (Public Health Agency of Sweden, Citation2019). Moreover, 37% of women and 54% of men in our study responded that they considered sex to be important; these proportions are lower than those reported in countries such as Sweden (Public Health Agency of Sweden, Citation2019), Britain (Field et al., Citation2013), and France (Bajos et al., Citation2010). In a previous study using data from a national survey in 2015, around half of Japanese singles (21% of the women and 25% of men in the total population aged 18–39 years) reported that they had no interest in heterosexual romantic relationships (Ghaznavi et al., Citation2020). The proportion reporting no interest in heterosexual relationships was largest among those aged 18–24 years and decreased with higher age. Questions regarding sexual orientation, the perceived importance of sex, and interest in sexual relationships address different aspects of sexual interest/desire; findings from the current and previous studies indicate that sexual relationships might play a less prominent role in Japan at the individual, cultural, and societal level as compared with many Western countries, although potential differences across study populations in how the survey questions were perceived and interpreted warrant caution when making cross-cultural comparisons.

While 28% of women and 23% of men indicated that they were satisfied with their sex life, 18% of women and 27% of men indicated that they were dissatisfied. In addition, 26% of women and 46% of men indicated that they wanted to increase their sexual frequency. While the higher levels of sexual dissatisfaction and desire to increase sexual frequency among men than women have been observed across many cultures and countries (Hakim, Citation2015; Mitchell et al., Citation2013), our findings indicate that a large proportion of women and men in Japan are dissatisfied with their sex lives and wish to increase their level of sexual activity.

Pornography Use

We found that approximately 36% of women and 84% of men used pornography. Among those aged 20–29 years, 17% of women and 59% of men reported a frequency of pornography use of weekly or more and 2% of women and 15% of men reported daily or almost daily use. While detailed data on the frequency of pornography use in national populations are scarce (Miller et al., Citation2020; Regnerus et al., Citation2016; Rissel et al., Citation2017), the values reported in this study were similar to those observed in analyses of nationally representative survey data collected in Sweden where 13% of women and 66% of men aged 16–24 years reported at least weekly pornography use and 1% of women and 17% men reported daily or almost daily use (Malki et al., Citation2021). In accordance with findings from Australia and Sweden, reporting negative effects of pornography use on one’s sex life was rare and less common than reporting positive effects (Malki et al., Citation2021; Rissel et al., Citation2017).

Use of Commercial Sex Worker Services

We found that 4% of women and 48% of men reported ever having used commercial sex worker services in their lifetime. These proportions are higher than those reported in surveys from other countries. For example, in a national survey from Sweden, around 10% of men and less than 1% of women aged 16–84 years reported that they had given money or other types of compensation for sex in their lifetime (Public Health Agency of Sweden, Citation2019). In the British Natsal-3 survey, the proportion of men who reported having paid for sex during the past 5 years ranged between 3 and 5% across age groups, while this proportion was close to zero for women (Mercer et al., Citation2013). In a Danish survey among those aged 15–29 years, around 10% of men had paid for sex during their lifetime, while this proportion was nearly zero for women (Jorgensen et al., Citation2015). In Germany, 27% of men participating in a national survey reported having paid for sex in their lifetime (Doring et al., Citation2022). It could be hypothesized that the rate of commercial sex service use is high in Japan due to easy accessibility and visibility of such services in metropolitan areas (e.g., the famous red light district in Kabukicho, Tokyo), many types of sexual services being legal in Japan (although services including vaginal intercourse are not technically legal, these laws are not strictly enforced), the diversity in the types of services offered (including many services that do not include penetrative sex), and the relatively low stigma concerning the use of commercial sex services, among men but also women, as compared with Western nations (Fu, Citation2011; Koch, Citation2021; Takeyama, Citation2021).

Implications for Future Research

The findings presented here engender additional opportunities for future research. First, given the increasing socioeconomic disparities in Japan, which may also correlate with sexual inactivity and prospects for finding sexual partners (Ghaznavi, Sakamoto et al., Citation2022; Ghaznavi et al., Citation2019), it would be informative to assess the sociodemographic characteristics of those who have responded that they are sexually inexperienced, sexually inactive, and asexual. Assessment of the association of sexual inexperience, sexual inactivity, and asexuality with variables related to sexual health and wellbeing may shed light on potential reasons for and experiences of sexual inexperience and inactivity. For example, whether individuals who have responded that they are asexual are sexually inactive and whether sexually inactive individuals tend to report satisfaction with their sex lives or consider sex as unimportant would be of interest to explore (Andresen et al., Citation2022; Ueda & Mercer, Citation2019). Another venue for future research is to assess the association of frequent pornography use with sexual health outcomes and with self-reported positive or negative effects of pornography use on individuals’ sex lives (Hald & Malamuth, Citation2008; Malki et al., Citation2021; McKee, Citation2007; Miller et al., Citation2020; Rissel et al., Citation2017). Moreover, sociodemographic characterization of individuals who use commercial sex work services and assessment of the association between use of commercial sex work services and sexual health outcomes and sexual behaviors, including other risk behaviors, are warranted (Doring et al., Citation2022).


Our study had limitations. First, the survey used in the current analysis was conducted via an online platform. Similar to other quasi-representative national surveys (Herbenick et al., Citation2017; Mercer et al., Citation2021), it is uncertain to what extent the study participants are representative of the national population (Ross et al., Citation2005). Although we weighted the sample based on age, region, and marital status to ensure that the survey was nationally representative with respect to these variables, the weighted NInJaS sample was more educated and had slightly higher income across all age and sex groups, as compared to the National Fertility Survey; the slight overrepresentation of highly educated and higher income individuals has been reported in previous literature using the same survey platform (Nomura et al., Citation2021). Second, questions pertaining to sexual health are sensitive and thus susceptible to response bias, especially social desirability bias. However, the anonymous nature of the self-administered online survey may have mitigated the risk of response bias (Gribble et al., Citation1999). Third, our survey was conducted in July 2022, during the late stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in Japan. During the course of the pandemic, between one and four state of emergency declarations (SoEs) were implemented in each of Japan’s 47 prefectures, with the final SoE ending after the Tokyo Olympic Games in late 2021. During SoEs, residents of Japan were encouraged to minimize social interactions outside the home by limiting nonessential outings, restaurants and bars instituted shortened business hours or halted services entirely, and many businesses switched to remote work. Notably, SoE compliance was voluntary, but even still considerable declines in mobility were recorded, especially during earlier SoEs (Ghaznavi, Yoneoka et al., Citation2022). Previous research has found that the frequency of sexual activity decreased in Japan during the pandemic (Kitamura et al., Citation2021), possibly due to the nationwide social distancing policies and SoEs. Thus, future iterations of this survey will be needed to assess sexual behavior during non-pandemic periods. Fourth, we were limited in the number of items we could include in our questionnaire, and thus the first iteration of NInJaS was not as comprehensive as many other, long-established sexual health surveys from Western nations. As we expected few participants to identify as transsexual, we did not include questions that encompass trans experiences. Finally, the self-administered nature of the survey precluded respondents from asking clarifying questions and may have led to misunderstandings regarding the intent of specific questions. For example, terms such as sexual orientation are not yet widely used in Japanese. In these instances, we added explanations next to terms that may be unfamiliar to the average Japanese resident in order to minimize any misunderstandings.

Animosity, Amnesia, or Admiration? Mass Opinion Around the World Toward the Former Colonizer

Animosity, Amnesia, or Admiration? Mass Opinion Around the World Toward the Former Colonizer. Andy Baker, David Cupery. British Journal of Political Science, February 15 2023. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-political-science/article/animosity-amnesia-or-admiration-mass-opinion-around-the-world-toward-the-former-colonizer/44421583E99527DF77E04091584B9516

Abstract: Nearly all contemporary countries were colonized at some point in their history by a foreign power, but do citizens resent their former metropoles for past colonial abuses? We exploit survey questions in which respondents were asked for their opinion of a named foreign country. Our analyses of responses from over ninety countries yield the surprising finding that today's citizens are more favourable toward their country's former colonizer – by 40 per cent of a standard deviation – than they are toward other countries. Contemporary monadic traits that make former metropoles liked around the world – especially their tendency to be democracies – as well as their relatively high volumes of trade with former colonies explain their popularity among citizens of their former colonies. We also illustrate and describe these patterns in two least-likely cases, Mexico and Zimbabwe. Our findings have important implications for understanding international soft power, an asset about which today's states care deeply.

Observers have pinned the ‘humanity's worst mistake’ label on several of history's major institutions, ranging from the adoption of agriculture to twentieth-century communism (Diamond Reference Diamond1987; Economist 2009). In our assessment, the institution of modern colonialism – meaning the exploration, conquest, settlement, and political dominance of distant lands by European and other great powers during the second millennium CE – is surely a strong contender. For centuries, especially from the late fifteenth to the late twentieth centuries, colonized people in virtually every corner of the globe were at some point subjected to several abusive practices from a very long list: Slavery and other forms of forced labour, ethnoracial cleansing and genocide, eradication by disease, violent state repression, land expropriation, forced migration, theft of mineral and agricultural resources, massacres, racist ideological projects, excessive taxation, commercial monopolies, and so on (Fanon Reference Fanon1963; Rodney Reference Rodney1972; Tharoor Reference Tharoor2016). Moreover, the process of decolonizing was often a bloody one and, even in the aftermath of modern colonialism, the post-colonial world continues to struggle with many of the institution's stubborn legacies, including political violence deriving from arbitrarily drawn borders (Herbst Reference Herbst2000) as well as severe global income inequalities (Acemoglu, Johnson, and Robinson Reference Acemoglu, Johnson and Robinson2001). In short, modern colonialism is one of the most transformational and nefarious institutions in human history.

Despite these impacts and ongoing consequences, scholars of mass opinion and collective memory know little about where former colonizers and colonialism stand in the contemporary public mind. Do individuals in today's post-colonial world hold animosity toward the country that colonized and brutalized their ancestors? Or do they instead have amnesia about the colonial abuses of the past and, perhaps, even admire former metropoles because they tend to be wealthy democracies? In this paper, we discern whether today's citizens hold animosity, amnesia, or admiration toward their former colonizer.

To do so, we compile and aggregate responses to thousands of cross-nationally comparable survey questions asked in over ninety countries. Each question queries respondents' evaluations of a named foreign country, including on many occasions the former colonizer of the respondent's country. We find a surprising ‘former-colonizer gap’ in global mass opinion: Today's citizens are on average more favourable toward their former metropole – by about 40 per cent of a standard deviation – than they are toward other countries. Similarly, the amount of abuse and violence that occurred under colonialism does not correlate with how favourably an erstwhile metropole is evaluated. The former-colonizer gap exists, we show, not because of the colonial experience or history itself but because of contemporary political and economic features of former colonizers. Former metropoles today tend to be more democratic than other countries, a monadic trait that makes them relatively popular in world opinion and thus more popular than other countries in former colonies. Former metropoles also tend to be relatively important trading partners with their former colonies, a dyadic trait that contributes to the former-colonizer gap. We illustrate these patterns with large-sample statistical analyses and studies of two least-likely country cases, Mexico and Zimbabwe. In sum, we do not observe widespread animosity but, instead, uncover evidence for a combination of amnesia and admiration.

Our findings have several important implications. As large literatures on soft power, international status, and public diplomacy show, states invest heavily in and care deeply about the images they project abroad (Nye Reference Nye2004; Renshon Reference Renshon2017; Wang Reference Wang2008). A country's image to foreign mass publics affects that state's material interests in a variety of ways: Its risk from terrorism, its ability to form international alliances, its inflows of foreign tourists, and so on (Datta Reference Datta2014; Goldsmith and Horiuchi Reference Goldsmith and Horiuchi2012; Krueger and Malečková Reference Krueger and Malečková2009). Thus our findings on what shapes these images speak to central issues in international relations. Within this vein, we add to nascent literature that empirically demonstrates how valuable democracy is in improving a country's image abroad, demonstrating that contemporary democracy replaces the abuses of the past in citizens' evaluations of former colonizers (Tomz and Weeks Reference Tomz and Weeks2020). The former-colonizer gap is largely spurious and, in the end, it is democracy and trade – not the colonial project or relationships themselves – that promote international soft power. In other words, although we find that collective memories are short and former colonizers are relatively popular, our findings in no way justify the horrors of colonialism. Finally, we contribute to the literature on the long-term psychological consequences of political violence. Whereas recent findings demonstrate the intergenerational transmission of trauma from ethnically-targeted violence (Lupu and Peisakhin Reference Lupu and Peisakhin2017), ours show that collective memories of colonial affronts among broad populations have a short half-life.

Mass Animosity Toward the Former Colonizer?

Formal colonialism is largely an institution of the past, but its scope, brutality, and legacy mean that the residents of the 150-plus independent nation-states that were once colonies of European and other powers still have good reason to resent their former metropoles. Most of the territories of Africa, Asia, East Europe, and the Western Hemisphere were colonized or annexed by at least one global power – Belgium, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Japan, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Soviet Union, Spain, Turkey, and the United States – for some period between 1299 (the founding of the Ottoman Empire) and 1991 (the collapse of the Soviet Union). Colonial affronts against native and indigenous populations were brazen and have been well-documented in numerous academic literatures, so we do not summarize all of them here. They include the theft of labour and of commodities; mass murder and a subsequent decline in native populations by as much as 90 per cent in some colonized territories; and paternalistic and coercive ideological projects, such as the racist mission to ‘civilize’ the native residents or the Marxian imperative to scrub territories of their ethnic and religious identities (Amin Reference Amin1990; Galeano Reference Galeano1973; Hochschild Reference Hochschild1998). Put differently, the typical metropole did much to foment long-standing animosity and resentment toward itself by the colonial and postcolonial masses.

Indeed, recent research suggests that various agents of socialization can propagate and thus sustain the painful memories of oppression for a long time – ‘political attitudes associated with certain institutional practices persist long after the institutions themselves have disappeared’ (Lupu and Peisakhin Reference Lupu and Peisakhin2017, 838). Families and identity groups in particular can transmit victimization narratives and grudges across multiple generations (Balcells Reference Balcells2012; Rozenas, Schutte, and Zhukov Reference Rozenas, Schutte and Zhukov2017). Additionally, political elites sometimes seek to sustain colonial abuses in the collective memory. In 2021, for example, the Jamaican government demanded reparations from the British Queen for slavery and colonialism (White Reference White2021). Because elite rhetoric is often an important source of mass attitudes toward foreign countries, efforts such as these may reproduce anti-colonizer sentiment among contemporary mass publics (Blaydes and Linzer Reference Blaydes and Linzer2012).

Further, the pernicious consequences of colonialism persist and are visible in today's independent states, as documented in booming literatures. For instance, many civil and ethnic conflicts in Africa (for example, Sudan and Côte d'Ivoire) and the Middle East (for example, Iraq and Lebanon) exist partly because of the artificiality of national borders – borders that are legacies of superpower rivalries and other European prerogatives, not organic nation-building efforts (Englebert Reference Englebert2009). Similarly, many former colonies still struggle to break from corrupt, regressive, and growth-retarding institutions and practices, such as neopatrimonialism and the maldistribution of land, which are clear legacies of colonial governance (Dell Reference Dell2010; Engerman and Sokoloff Reference Engerman and Sokoloff2012). To sum up, some existing theories and findings imply an animosity hypothesis, whereby today's citizens are much less favourable toward their former colonizer than they are toward other foreign countries.

Amnesia and Admiration

Historical motives for postcolonial citizens to hold a well-justified animosity toward their former colonizers are thus abundant, yet theoretical reasons to doubt that they do so are stronger. Research confirming the intergenerational transmission of political trauma focuses on specific victimized groups – families and ethnoracial groups and their direct descendants. To be sure, some groups (for example, the indigenous peoples of Spanish America) were more victimized by colonial rule than others (for example, the criollos). But our focus and unit of analysis is a larger, more diffuse, and more diverse collective – all people living within a postcolonial territory; that is, a contemporary nation-state's entire adult population. Because colonialism was also an affront to entire societies, it is worth considering whether today's societal aggregates single out their former colonial master for resentment (Lloyd Reference Lloyd2000). We are sceptical that they do so because mass publics are notoriously myopic and fickle about political and economic events (Healy and Lenz Reference Healy and Lenz2014). For example, Li, Wang, and Chen (Reference Li, Wang and Chen2016) find that the Nanjing Massacre (1927) played a small role in how Chinese citizens viewed Japan in 2010, and a 70 per cent majority of Vietnamese respondents approved of the US in a survey that took place just three decades (2002) after the US withdrawal from the Vietnam War (Pew Research Center 2020). For these and other reasons, many scholars bemoan a purported ‘postcolonial amnesia’ in today's nation-states (Diop Reference Diop2020; Kennedy Reference Kennedy2016).

Because of citizen myopia, sustaining a sense of grievance in the collective memory may require, as a minimum, ongoing nurture from elites and other agents of socialization, but this practice is somewhat rare: ‘Most postcolonial countries have not gone … far in revisiting the painful circumstances of their creation’ (Kennedy Reference Kennedy2016, 98). Instead, most political elites avoid vehement and open animosity toward their former metropoles, the example of Jamaica notwithstanding. As relatively wealthy countries, former metropoles often have diplomatic leverage over their former colonies and, for that matter, all less developed countries (Casetti Reference Casetti2003). For example, India's Hindu nationalist prime minister, Narendra Modi, has stressed friendship, shared traditions, and common initiatives when addressing relations with the United Kingdom (Modi Reference Modi2015). If contemporary elites are not persistently unified in vocal criticism of their former colonizers, citizens are unlikely to absorb and maintain anticolonial narratives. And even if elites are unified and persistent, their rhetoric does not automatically translate into public opinion, as this process is imperfect and filled with mitigating factors (Zaller Reference Zaller1992). We thus posit an amnesia hypothesis, which holds that colonial abuses have a minimal presence and resonance in contemporary opinions toward the metropole.

Although the average citizen is myopic and not deeply knowledgeable about foreign countries, previous research suggests that individuals develop impressions – sometimes complex, multidimensional impressions – about foreign countries (Chiozza Reference Chiozza2010). Scholars call these impressions ‘national stereotypes’ or ‘country images’ (Chattalas, Kramer, and Takada Reference Chattalas, Kramer and Takada2008; Han Reference Han1989). A person's image of country x emerges from ongoing information gathered about that country. With this in mind, we propose two sets of reasons, both related to contemporary politico-economic features, in support of an admiration hypothesis – the claim that today's individuals should extend more goodwill to their former colonizers than they do to other countries.

The first set of reasons invokes former metropoles' contemporary monadic traits, meaning country-level attributes they broadcast to all countries. Former colonizers are more democratic (for example, Spain and the UK), larger in brute economic size (for example, Russia and Turkey), and richer on a per capita basis (for example, France) than the average country. According to research on international soft power, these are attractive monadic traits to have (Nye Reference Nye2004). For example, a growing body of experimental evidence shows that individuals evaluate autocratic and rights-violating countries more harshly than they do democracies (Chu Reference Chu2021; Goldsmith and Horiuchi Reference Goldsmith and Horiuchi2021; Putnam and Shapiro Reference Putnam and Shapiro2017; Tomz and Weeks Reference Tomz and Weeks2013Reference Tomz and Weeks2020). Similarly, wealth promotes a country's brand, conveying status and competence while also affording it economic outflows and the tools of public diplomacy (Larson, Paul, and Wohlforth Reference Larson, Paul, Wohlforth, Paul, Larson and Wohlforth2014; Verlegh and Steenkamp Reference Verlegh and Steenkamp1999).

A second set of reasons speaks to unique elements of modern dyadic relationships between former metropoles and their former colonies (Chacha and Stojek Reference Chacha and Stojek2019). Most importantly, trade and investment flows tend to be greater, all things being equal, between a former colony and its former colonizer than they are between other dyads (Goldstein, Rivers, and Tomz Reference Goldstein, Rivers and Tomz2007), and these forms of economic exchange can boost mutual goodwill between countries (Baker and Cupery Reference Baker and Cupery2013). Additionally, former colonies sometimes share important cultural similarities – most notably in language and religion – with their erstwhile metropoles. Cultural similarities tend to boost mutual understanding, casting residents of former metropoles as in-group members to individuals in the former colonies (Khalid, Okafor, and Sanusi Reference Khalid, Okafor and Sanusi2022). Finally, some European countries make active diplomatic efforts – exemplified by the British Commonwealth, the Organization of Ibero-American States (Spain and Portugal), the Commonwealth of Independent States (Russia), and the International Organization of La Francophonie – to foster ties with former colonies, and donor countries tend to favour former colonies with their foreign aid outflows (Alesina and Dollar Reference Alesina and Dollar2000; Chiba and Heinrich Reference Chiba and Heinrich2019).

Overall, we hypothesize that citizens will be more supportive, on average, of their former colonizer than they are of other countries, but for spurious reasons. We expect to find that this relationship is explained by the contemporary monadic traits of former metropoles and the contemporary aspects of relationships between former metropoles and their colonies. In other words, because citizens tend to have short memories, they extend greater goodwill to their former colonizer, not because of the colonial experience per se but because there are important contemporary factors that are correlated with the past presence of a colonial relationship.