Explaining Mass Support for Agricultural Protectionism: Evidence from a Survey Experiment During the Global Recession

Megumi Naoi, Ikuo Kume

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Citations (Scopus)


Why are citizens in advanced industrialized countries willing to accept high prices for agricultural products? Conventional wisdom suggests that agricultural interests secure government protection because producers are concentrated and better politically organized than diffused consumers. Due to its focus on producer capacity for collective action, however, the literature fails to account for the high levels of mass support for agricultural protectionism in advanced industrialized nations. This article presents new evidence from a survey experiment in Japan conducted during the recent global recession (December 2008) that accounts for this puzzle. Using randomly assigned visual stimuli, the experiment activates respondents' identification with either producer or consumer interests and proceeds to ask attitudinal questions regarding food imports. The results suggest that consumer priming has no reductive or additive effects on the respondents' support for liberalizing food imports. Surprisingly, producer priming increases respondents' opposition to food import, particularly among those who fear future job insecurity. We further disentangle the puzzling finding that consumers think like producers on the issue of food import along two mechanisms: “sympathy” for farmers and “projection” of their own job insecurity. The results lend strong support to the projection hypothesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)771-795
Number of pages25
JournalInternational Organization
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Law


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