Michaela Mattes will present "In Your Eyes: How International Apologies Shape Third-Party Perceptions." Please see the abstract below.
Abstract: This paper examines the international image effects of interstate apologies. Can senders improve their standing among third parties by apologizing, or do apologies signal weakness? When and why do apologies have these effects? We hypothesize that international audiences view a state that apologizes more favorably than one that does not, because apologies provide reassurance that the sender will show future restraint and signal that the sender holds appropriate values. We also anticipate, however, that apologies could signal weakness by causing the sender to lose face. We further predict apologies have more muted image repair effects when the victim rejects the apology or when the apology provokes backlash within the sending country. To test our hypotheses, we fielded a large-scale survey experiment in the U.S. Respondents learned whether or not a foreign state (Russia) apologized to a victim (Ukraine) for past offenses. We further varied the target's response, the reaction of key domestic groups in Russia, and whether Russia had transitioned to democracy. We found that Russia apologizing greatly increased U.S. favorability toward Russia, willingness to cooperate with it, and willingness to purchase Russian products, but did not make Russia appear weak. Large effects persisted even when Ukraine rejected Russia's apology and/or Russians sharply criticized their own government's statements, though these reactions did often diminish the apology's beneficial effects. Our findings suggest that an apology may be a powerful tool of international image repair.