Public Opinion and Voting Behavior

Can a Constitutional Monarch Influence Democratic Preferences? The Regulation of Public Expression in Japan



This study examines whether constitutional monarchs, who are non-political symbolic figures, have any influence on ideological attitudes under a democracy. We design a unique survey experiment on the emperor of Japan regarding the regulation of public expression. This issue can be framed both as left-wing (i.e., the regulation of hate speech) and right-wing (i.e., the regulation of publicly funded anti-nationalistic exhibitions). Taking advantage of the dual nature of the issue, we test the effects of the emperor's endorsement on support for regulation under each ideological frame. The results indicate that the (former) emperor's endorsement for freedom of expression does have a cross-cutting effect and decreases support for regulation. This effect is relatively small but statistically significant. Additionally, the findings provide weak evidence for the emperor's own ideological position conditioning his endorsement effect. These results provide new insights into how supposedly non-political popular figures can influence the formation of democratic preferences.

Version notes

A paragraph on ethical consideration. Slight adjustment to funding information.


Thumbnail image of Emperor_Endorsement_210408_v2.3.pdf

Supplementary material

Thumbnail image of Emperor_Endorsement_Appendix_210407.pdf
Online Appendix
The Online Appendix of ``Can a Constitutional Monarch Influence Democratic Preferences? The Regulation of Public Expression in Japan.''


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