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Mershon News

Olga Kamenchuk Erik Nisbet

Study suggests Putin has developed a ‘psychological firewall’

The Russian government has persuaded many of its citizens to avoid websites and social media platforms that are critical of the government, a new study has found.

Researchers analyzing a survey of Russian citizens found that those who relied more on Russian national television news perceived the internet as a greater threat to their country than did others. This in turn led to increased support for online political censorship.

Approval of the government of President Vladimir Putin amplified the impact of those threat perceptions on support for censorship, according to the study.

The success of the Russian regime in persuading citizens to self-censor their internet use has troubling implications, said Erik Nisbet, co-author of the study an associate professor of communication at The Ohio State University.

“This is actually more insidious. The government doesn’t have to rely as much on legal or technical firewalls against content they don’t like. They have created a psychological firewall in which people censor themselves,” Nisbet said.

“People report they don’t go to certain websites because the government says it is bad for me.”

Nisbet conducted the study with Olga Kamenchuk, a visiting assistant professor, and doctoral student Aysenur Dal, both from Ohio State. Their results appear in the September 2017 issue of the journal Social Science Quarterly.

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Peter Hahn

Peter Mansoor

The 2018 WWII Tour will run June 23 to July 1, traveling to London, Normandy and Amsterdam, following in the footsteps of the men and women who fought for democracy and were called “The Greatest Generation.” The tour will be led by Ohio State’s experts in diplomatic and military history — Mershon affiliates Peter Mansoor, Gen. Raymond E. Mason Chair in Military History, and Peter Hahn, chair of the Department of History, along with David Steigerwald. For full details, itinerary and registration information, visit the Alumni Tours page.

The College of Arts and Sciences seeks a director for the Mershon Center for International Security Studies, the intellectual center on campus for the study of national and international security in a global context.

The center director must hold a Ph.D. or equivalent degree and have a record of successful publication and teaching that justifies appointment at the rank of full professor. Experiences in governmental, inter-governmental, and/or non-governmental institutions and agencies dealing with security issues are desirable, as is significant experience of international engagement and collaboration generally.  Applicants should have a track record of academic leadership including grant seeking and institution building.

All interested applicants should submit a curriculum vita and a vision statement outlining their view of security studies and the direction they would like to take the center, to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. by Tuesday, September 5, 2017. Read the full job description

Anthony Mughan Richard Gunther Paul Beck Erik Nisbet

Four Mershon Center faculty affiliates have received a $54,000 grant from the Directorate of Political Science in the National Science Foundation to conduct a post-election survey of the British electorate as part of a study comparing 2016 and 2017 elections in Britain, France, Germany, the United States and earlier studies of four countries in Southern Europe.

Principal investigators on the project, entitled “A Changing Electoral Politics in Western Democracies: Comparing the 2017 British Election to France, Germany, the United States, and Southern Europe within the Comparative National Election Study,” include Erik Nisbet, associate professor of communication; Paul Beck, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Social and Behavioral Sciences; Richard Gunther, professor emeritus of political science, and Anthony Mughan, professor of political science and director of the International Studies Program.

Drawing from the same questionnaire used for 49 post-election surveys in 27 countries over the past three decades, the study will allow researchers to do a systematic comparative analysis of voting behavior across eight western democracies, at least three of which have undergone substantial party-system realignment in recent years.

The survey includes voters in the:

  • June 2017 general election in Britain
  • November 2016 presidential election in the United States
  • May 2017 second-round presidential election in France
  • September 2017 federal legislative election in Germany.

Results of this research will help explain fundamental challenges in recent years to established patterns of voting behavior and party structures in Western democracies by focusing on such factors as responses to economic stress, changing patterns in distribution of political information, demand for and satisfaction with democracy, and political polarization.

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Skyler Cranmer

Skyler Cranmer, Carter Phillips and Sue Henry Associate Professor of Political Science and affiliate of the Mershon Center for International Security Studies and Ohio State Discovery Themes' Translational Data Analytics, is co-author of a new study finding that the United Nations acts more than just a bystander to world events.

Instead, Cranmer and collaborator Scott Pauls, professor of mathematics at Dartmouth College, found that the UN "provides a forum where diplomacy reduces the chance of war."

The study appears in the journal Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications. Their study is the first to present evidence that UN voting coalitions improve chance for peace and defensive alliances, not democratization.

In addition to analyzing the UN’s effectiveness at preventing war, Cranmer and Pauls also used General Assembly voting records for more than 65 years to assess the organization’s impact on the spread of democracy and the building of defensive alliances. The review of 5,143 UN General Assembly voting records from 1946 through 2011 found that the process of nations working together over time builds trust and facilitates fast, transparent communication that raises the chance of resolving crises peacefully.

"There is more nuance in voting records than was previously thought," said Cranmer. "The evidence demonstrates that the UN is more effective at achieving its mandate of avoiding wars than many experts think."

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