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NisbetE hires

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.

Olga Kamenchuk

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MansoorP hires

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.

Mitch Lerner

Where do we go from here?

What is North Korea going to do next?

That’s a question that we all seem to be asking a lot lately and nobody has a definitive answer as to what the country and its mercurial leadership will do.

Mershon affiliate Mitchell B. Lerner, associate professor of history and director of the Institute for Korean Studies, brings some insight to the confusion. He believes the United States has long needed to rethink its approach toward North Korea. Lerner, who is the director of Ohio State’s Institute for Korea Studies, recently authored a column in the Washington Post that called for the United States to curb its expectations of China solving the problem.

Lerner recently offered his take on the ever-developing situation with North Korea.

Q. At the end of July, North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile that experts believe could have reached as far as the United States. Was this unexpected?

A. The missile reportedly crashed into the ocean off the coast of Japan, after reaching a height of about 2,300 miles. The success took many in the global community by surprise, as did the news from a recent intelligence estimate putting forth that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un controls about 60 nuclear weapons now — more than anyone had previously thought. (By comparison, the United States has about 6,800 nuclear warheads — and Russia about 7,000.)

The United States, like many others, did not expect North Korea’s weapons program to have made such advancement this quickly, according to Lerner.

“Yes, it is unexpected how quickly they have advanced their (nuclear weapons) program,” he said. “We have known for a long time that they were moving in this direction, but this represents some really striking success.”

But to some extent, this could also be viewed as inevitable, Lerner said. North Korea is dedicating a huge percentage of its GDP towards weapons development — something that other nations have not done or are not willing to do.

“It’s not a nation that has ever spent much time worrying about the fortunes of its people or of the long-term development of its economy or infrastructure,” said Lerner. “It’s very much focused on developing its weapons capabilities at the expense of pretty much everything else. It’s one of the defining principles of the nation over the past few decades.”

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Anthony Mughan Richard Gunther BeckP 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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