Public Attitudes toward Globalization in East Asia

Findings from a Cross-National Survey

Jie Xu

Villanova University - USA


Based on a series of data analyses of the 2008 East Asia Social Survey (EASS) encompassing China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, this paper examines attitudes toward globalization among citizens from East Asia, and investigates factors that affect their global attitude. A three-pronged analytic framework is presented; influential theoretical perspectives and established individual and cultural contributors are addressed to organize the analyses. People in East Asia generally welcome the idea of globalization, with the Chinese being the most optimistic. It is culture values (e.g., in-group orientation) and out-group contact, more than people’s demographics or material interests, which allow them to make sense of what globalization represents. Implications, limitations and recommendation for future research are also discussed.

Keywords: East Asia Social Survey, Globalization, Culture


Understanding how globalization is experienced locally has been a largely intangible goal for international communication theory and research. This impalpability can be partly attributed to international communication’s inability of effectively articulating its meta-theoretical narratives with systematic empirical research of cross-national and cross-cultural projects. The question unraveling explanatory factors accounting for public opinion about globalization is fundamentally important for both theory and practice. What are the public opinion trends on globalization? How well do extant explanatory variables account for attitudes toward globalization? Ultimately these questions need to be fought on the empirical battlefield.

There is an intersectional locus of public opinion scholarship and globalization studies. Some attempts to understand these transformations empirically have made use of data from national and cross-national surveys (e.g., Chattalas & Reyes 2008; Zdravkovic 2007). Three issues need special attention. One is that most empirical studies of public opinion regarding globalization have to date focused on economic integration, leaving other aspects of globalization (i.e., cultural) largely underexplored. The second is that many analyses of public opinion about global integration are based on the material factors or interests driving individual and collective preferences. Values, ideology, cross-cultural contact and media exposure remain understudied explanations for variations in public opinion. The third is that there have been few attempts beyond North America and Europe to investigate whether there is a growing sense of globalization. We know little about how people from other regions, particularly developing countries and emerging economies, view globalization. Research has yet to provide a clear picture of the macro-level and micro-level factors that affect the emergence and manifestation of attitudes toward globalization. In a recent review, Ceobanu and Escandell (2010) call for further explorations using longitudinal data and diversified measures, expanding the number of countries and levels of analysis, and improving on the specification of existing analytical models.

The purpose of this paper is to explore public opinions on globalization among citizens from East Asia, and to investigate factors that affect their global attitude. Using the 2008 data of East Asia Social Survey (EASS) encompassing China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, this paper investigates antecedents (e.g., demographics, cultural values, and out-group contact) affecting people’s evaluation of globalization. It continues the current line of cross-national research seeking to understand the correlates, manifestations, and implications of attitudes toward globalization in an important yet under-studied region. A three-pronged analytic framework is presented; influential theoretical perspectives and established individual and cultural contributors are addressed to organize the analyses.

Themes of Globalization

Globalization means different things to different people (Greenfield & Pringle 2001). According to Giddens, globalization refers to “the intensification of worldwide social relations which link distant localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away and vice versa” (2003: 64). Held et al. (1999: 483) define globalization as “a process (or set of processes) that embody a transformation in the spatial organization of social relations and transactions, generating transcontinental or interregional flows and networks of activity, interaction, and power”. It is realized in both definitions that globalization cannot be interpreted only the extension of economic activities across national boundaries. Rather, the process is motivated by a mixture of cultural, economic and political influences.

Opinions about globalization vary widely as well: it can be beneficial and/or harmful to the population most affected by it. As Guillen (2001) concludes, “globalization is one of the most contested topics in the social science” (236). After a thorough investigation, Held et al. (1999) maintains that “no single coherent theory of globalization exists” (436). There is no theory of globalization that commands common assent. Extant studies represent three distinctive sets of understandings, explanations and argument around globalization. The hyperglobalisers (e.g., Ohmae 1995) consider globalization as the end of the nation state and the disciplines of the global marketplace are increasingly imposed on people everywhere. The sceptics (e.g., Hirst & Thompson 1996) argue against this view, maintaining that national governments are still very powerful and play a significant role in supporting globalization. The transformationlists see globalization as “historically unprecedented” (Held et al. 1999: 2), such that state-power and societies globally are involved in a process of profound change as they adapt to a world that is far more interconnected than previously (e.g., Giddens 2003).

From the above discussion, it is clear that globalization is a very complex concept and impacts the economic, political, social, cultural, technological, and physical atmospheres of today’s world. Analyzing the effects of all these factors on a population’s global attitude, would be extremely beneficial, whereas enormously challenging in the mean time. This paper aims to investigate factors that could potentially affect citizens’ global attitude. We define attitudes toward globalization as a respondent’s degree of favorability toward the phenomenon of worldwide integration resulting from a variety of activities. Global trade spans different parts of the world and affects people’s lives not only in the economic sense, but also in terms of political stability, social relationships, cultural convergence, sharing of technology, and environmental issues. As such, the economic area of globalization will be the primary focus. Other dimensions including cultural, social, and environmental facets will also be addressed. We hereby set forth the first research question:

RQ1: What is the current trend of public opinions on globalization in East Asia? Are there significant variations among China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan?

A Three-Pronged Analytic Framework at the Individual Level

Extant studies on global attitude research have drawn inspiration from grand and mini theories developed in various social disciplines. A number of prominent micro-sociological perspectives used in the literature have highlighted the impact of key variables, such as socioeconomic correlates, identities and values, and contact with out-group members. Under this umbrella, three major analytical frameworks underscore the processes on the perception of globalization, including: (1) demographics and personal traits, (2) values and identities, and (3) intergroup relations. In the framework based on demographic differences, the influence of demograhpics (e.g., sex and age) and one’s socioeconomic location and interests on global attitudes has been examined (e.g., Jung 2008; Sides & Citrin 2007). The second framework takes a micro-sociological theoretical perspective, elaborating the socio-psychological differences between cultural groups and how the variations influence perceptions and evaluations about globalization. This posits that opinion formation is likely influenced by symbolic interests such as values and ideology (e.g., Sides & Citrin 2007). Hofstede’s (2001) culture typology (e.g., individualism-collectivism and etc.) sheds light on the topic of cultural variation. In the intergroup framework, the array of theories rooted in this premise is derived from intergroup studies, such as the Contact Theory (for a review, see Pettigrew 1998). This perspective builds on Allport’s (1954) proposition that contact generally fosters more favorable attitudes toward out-group members. Despite being less prominently featured, there exists evidence that contact may have a more consequential influence on attitudes toward globalization than socioeconomic aspects or material interests (e.g., Sides & Citrin 2007; Wilkes, Guppy, & Farris 2008). We follow in this section to outline two perspectives (i.e., culture and intergroup relations) informing cross-national research on attitudes toward globalization.

Culture and Identity

Culture represents a set of shared knowledge and implicit theories about the world (Sharma 2010). Most studies on cross-cultural differences operationalize personal cultural orientations based on the national scores of Hofstede’s (2001) five cultural dimensions.

Individualism-collectivism is perhaps the most widely used concept in cross-cultural research (Gudykunst & Lee 2003). It describes a culture’s relative emphasis on the individual versus the larger collective (Hofstede 2001). Hofstede’s (2001) empirical findings show that the United States is a low-collectivist culture, while Eastern Asian countries are largely high collectivist nations. The extent to which one is oriented toward groups is, in part, an individual difference variable that is related to culture (Triandis 2001). The members of individualistic cultures have numerous in-groups and no particular group exerts dominant power over one’s behavior. In contrast, individuals from collectivistic cultures belong to a few in-groups that govern their general communication patterns. Consequently, in-group/out-group boundary is considered prominent in collectivistic cultures whereas it may be deemed as relatively minor in individualistic cultures (e.g., Gudykunst & Kim 1997). A higher level of in-group identification drives more negative out-group attitudes (Hewstone, Rubin, & Willis 2002). This implies that higher levels of collectivism and in-group orientation would have a negative effect on the acceptance and adoption of foreign products, labor, ideas, information and technology that result from globalization. It is thus hypothesized that:

H1: Individuals with a higher level of in-group orientation exhibit less favorable attitudes toward globalization.

A relevant factor with in-group orientation is the issue of identity. Identity with a group enhances the likelihood of being influenced by members of this group (Christensen, Rothgerber, Wood, & Matz 2004). There is debate in the literature about globalization over the nature of the relationship between global and national/local identities. The use of the market metaphor put forward by Price (1995) assumes that loyalty, which is based on group identity, is a finite quality—a commodity—and global forces compete for loyalty with the nation in a zero sum game. Similarly, Williams (2002) claims: ‘‘by unmooring meaning and identity from place, globalization dilutes traditional/local sources of identity and amplifies the quest of modern people to actively construct a sense of identity’’ (355). According to these views, processes of globalization and the development of global identities undermine loyalty to the state and national identities. In contrast, Turner (2002) argues that cosmopolitanism that involves developing a full respect for other cultures requires distancing oneself, and achieving a certain distance from one’s own culture. But, to achieve such an ironic distance, one must first be emotionally committed to a place, which means feeling secure in one’s own national or local identity. Thus, increasingly positive attitudes toward globalization may not be a sign of weakening, but rather of strong national identities. A recent study (Cohen 2008) indicates that being proud of one’s Israeliness can go hand in hand with believing one is a global citizen, further evidence of Turner’s (2002) view that nationalism and global attitude are compatible. It is unclear to what degree these results are generalizable to other national contexts. We therefore set forth the next research question:

RQ2: How does individual’s national/local identity affect their global attitude?

Intergroup Relations: Direct and Indirect Contact

The most influential social psychological theory focusing on reducing conflict between different groups is Intergroup Contact Theory (Allport 1954; Pettigrew 1998). The theory maintains that contact between groups under optimal conditions could effectively reduce intergroup prejudice. Generally, contact works through the affective processes by reducing the amount of anxiety experienced when interacting with members of the out-group. This reduces the amount of prejudice, and as a result, improves the overall attitudes toward the out-group (Pettigrew 1998). A meta-analysis (Pettigrew & Tropp 2006) confirms that intergroup contact significantly reduces intergroup prejudice. These contact effects typically generalize to the entire out-group, and they emerge across a broad range of out-group targets and contact settings. Not only do attitudes toward the immediate participants become more favorable, but so do attitudes toward the entire out-group, out-group members in other situations, and even out-groups not involved in the contact. This result enhances the potential of intergroup contact to be a practical, applied means of improving intergroup relations. At the same time, optimal conditions are not essential for intergroup contact to achieve positive outcomes. Rather, they act as facilitating conditions that enhance the likelihood for positive contact outcomes to emerge. Scholars have documented the facilitatory effect of foreign country travel on globalization (Wilk 1995), as well as interactions with foreigners (Belk 2000). In line with the theoretical propositions from contact theory, it is predicted that enhanced intergroup contact are associated with more favorable attitudes toward globalization. It is therefore hypothesized that:

H2: Individuals who have more out-group contact through travel and acquaintance are more likely to view globalization positively.

Recent research has shown that the contact construct can be stretched beyond actual contact. For example, Turner, Crisp, and Lambert (2007) proposed that even imagining intergroup contact may have beneficial effects on intergroup attitudes. In general, contact creates the similarity conditions that should lead to greater projection to out-groups; and closes the psychological distance, breaking down the category boundary that inhibits projection to out-groups (Clement & Krueger 2002). The fact that imagining/indirect contact can elicit positive intergroup attitudes regardless of actual contact experiences may have important practical implications (Stahi & Crisp 2008). A global media culture provides new sources for cross-cultural contact and new cultural experiences. How may the international media content influence public opinion? Certainly, media research is also needed alongside the survey work we report here, to see whether and how the media might be impacting the way people view globalization. The empirical evidence about the impact of foreign television content on viewers is sparse and limited (Elasmar & Hunter 1997). Mostly, studies have identified rather weak effects of viewing foreign content on cultivating consumerism, positive attitudes about democracy, or greater admiration for American culture (e.g., Zaharopoulos 2003). It is unrealistic to expect media effects to be so powerful and all-encompassing that even the details and nuances of the discourses will be taken up by the audience. Instead, media effects are more likely to emerge when we focus on the more general, overall themes. Recent studies suggest that the use of foreign media is quite pervasive in East Asia including China (Iwabuchi 2010). In fact, a majority of Chinese people use foreign media products almost once a day. Among those who use foreign media products, almost one fifth of people’s overall media use is from foreign regions (Yao et al. 2010). Is there an association between cross-cultural contact through media coverage and public support for globalization at the aggregated level? Therefore, it is hypothesized that:

H3: Individuals who have been more frequently exposed to international news are more likely to view globalization positively.

We believe that the multilevel framework of analyses provides a comprehensive approach to study each of the three groups of factors, and offers a unique perspective on global attitudes at the individual level. The framework also enables us to explore the differences among various theoretical emphases. For instance, conclusions derived from intergroup and culture/value concerns can offer us a holistic understanding on the socio-political dynamics, whereas individual differences identify the crucial demographic factors that predict attitudes.



The East Asian Social Survey (EASS) is a collaborative project of research teams from Japan, South Korea, China and Taiwan. After repeated discussions and pretests, four teams jointly decide a theme and create a group of questions (module) based on issues and concerns unique to East Asian societies, and incorporate them into national or regional surveys regularly conducted in each society: Chinese General Social Survey (CGSS), Japanese General Social Surveys (JGSS), Korean General Social Survey (KGSS), and Taiwan Social Change Survey (TSCS). Two years after the completion of data collection, integrated data are created and released to researchers worldwide. Launched in 2003, EASS is one of the few internationally coordinated social survey data collection efforts, and is truly unique in its East Asian focus. The theme for the second survey (EASS 2008) was “Culture and Globalization in East Asia.” Detailed information on the EASS 2008 field work by each team, including sample size and response rate, is shown in Table 1.

Table 1: EASS Study Description

Study TitleChinese General Social Survey 2008Japanese General Social Survey 2008Korean General Social Survey 2008Taiwan Social Change Survey 2008
Fieldwork DatesSept.- Dec., 2008Oct.- Dec., 2008June.- Aug., 2008July.- Sept., 2008
PopulationChinese aged 18 and aboveJapanese aged 20 to 89Koreans aged 18 and abovePopulation registers
Sampling methodFour stage PPS (country-town-village-household)Two-stage PPS by regional block and population sizeMulti-stage area probability samplingThree-stage PSS (township-village- individual)
Fieldwork MethodsFace to face interviews, filled in by interviewersFace to face interviews and self-administeredFace to face interviewsFace to face interviews
Initial Sampling Size6,3004,0032,5004,601
N. of Respondents3,0102,1601,5082,067
Response Rates47.77%54.0%61.0%44.93%

According to the “Cultural Map of the World” introduced by World Values Survey, China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan are grouped into Confucian culture (Inglehart & Welzel 2010). This map reflects the fact that a large number of basic values are closely correlated in this region. Another related significant issue of inter-Asian media culture circulation is concerned with how people in many parts of the region are connected through media culture consumption; one argues that it might engender an East Asian identity (Chua 2004). Our interest, however, lies in both similarities and differences within East Asia. As noted scholars Nisbett (2003) and Cohen (2001) maintain, each society, because of different geographical, ecological, and historical conditions, has developed its own pattern of cultural value orientations, which in turn reflects its unique way of thought and behavior. When we are to make cross-national comparison between East Asian countries and regions, which are expected to show signs of cultural proximity, it is also essential to pinpoint differences across nations.


In order to be able to identify how citizens understand and make sense of a multi-facet concept as “globalization”, diverse meanings of “globalization” (overall attitudes, economic and cultural globalization, and international migration) were addressed in questionnaire, avoiding undue detail, technical definitions, or argumentative prose. Participants completed a 7-item 7-point (1 = strongly disagree, 7 = strongly agree) Likert Scale, the questions were drawing from studies published in the political science (Shulman, 2002) and international economics (Hiscox 2006) literatures. Higher numbers indicate stronger positive attitudes toward globalization. The items included: “(Country/region) should limit the import of foreign products in order to protect its national economy”, “(Country/region) should follow its national interests even if these would lead to conflicts with other nations”, “Increased exposure to foreign films, music and books is damaging our own culture”, “I would like foreign workers to increase in [country/region]”, “Mobility of people and capital is good for economy”, “Mobility of people and capital is good for our workers”, and “Mobility of people and capital is good for our environment”. Coefficient alpha for this scale was .70. Responses were therefore averaged create a mean response for each participant.

Four demographic variables including sex, age, education, and income were assessed. Female participants were coded as 0 and male participants coded as 1. We divided age into six groups (18-24, 25-34, 35-44, 45-54, 55-64, and 65 and above). Seven educational attainment categories were included in the regression to take advantage of the entire data (i.e., no formal qualification, elementary school, junior high, high school, junior college, university, and graduate school). Individuals’ total income (earnings from main job, part-time jobs and other resources) were assessed in each country. For regression analyses, five groups were coded, with indication of their income “far below average, below average, above average, and far above average.”

The extent to which individuals are oriented toward group as opposed to individual goals was measured with a series of items derived from previous measures (Triandis, 2001). Participants completed a 6-item 7-point (1 = strongly disagree, 7 = strongly agree) Likert Scale, sample items included “I usually sacrifice my self-interest for the benefit of the group” and “It is important for me to maintain harmony in my group.” Coefficient alpha for this scale was .70. Responses were therefore averaged to create a composite response for each participant. Higher numbers indicate stronger orientation toward the group.

One’s national/local identity was assessed by asking them “how close do you feel to your city/town of residence and country” (1 = not at all close, 7 = very close). Coefficient alpha for this scale was .70. Responses were then averaged create a mean response for each participant.

People’s direct out-group contact included two aspects: travel and acquaintance. They were asked “Have you ever been to (country or region)?” and “Do you have acquaintances from (country or region)?” The list included China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, South East Asia (excluding above four), Europe, and North America. Lastly, for exposure to international news, participants were asked “From which of the following sources do you learn international news? Check all that apply”. The list included Newspaper, TV, radio, Internet, Word-of communication, and other. Since all items that composed out-group contact and sources of international news were dichotomous (1= Yes, 0 = No), all items were combined together into the one measure. For each participant, the times of them traveling abroad and numbers of foreign acquaintance were summarized and divided by two as an indicator of their out-group contact (range: 0 to 6). The number of sources of international news was also added up, as an indicator of their foreign news consumption. Both measures ranged from 0 to 6.


Before reporting the findings gleaned from different analyses, it should be noted that significance levels were adjusted for this investigation because of the large sample size. Specifically, because a large sample increases the possibility of Type I error (the probability of rejecting the null hypothesis when it should have been accepted), we adopted a more stringent threshold (p < .001) for determining statistical significance. As a result, findings at the p < .01 or p < .05 level were considered as being “marginally” significant or “approaching” significance.

This study requires employing observational data at different levels: individual-level surveys and country-level macro data. It is thus necessary to take into account different sources of variance in the data at the two levels, as well as cross-national heterogeneity of predicted relationships. One-way ANOVA and post-hoc Turkey tests afforded evidence that there were significant cross-national variations across major variables. In terms of demographic factors, no difference was found in the percentages of female/male respondents. Nevertheless, Japanese represented the most aged sample, followed by South Korea, Taiwan, and China. The same pattern was displayed in the personal income category. Japanese and South Korea citizens were better educated than Taiwanese, followed by the Chinese. With regard to cultural values, Chinese people held the strongest in-group orientation, followed by Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan. Also, China ranked the top in national/local identity, followed by Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea. Lastly, respondents from Taiwan ranked number one in out-group contact, followed by South Korea, Japan, and China. The Taiwanese also outnumbered other three in international news exposure. Please refer to Table 2 for details on cross-national variations.

Table 2: Cross-national Variations on Key Variables: a

ChinaJapanSouth KoreaTaiwan
Sex (F/M)1542/1438a1156/1004a815/693a1037/1030a
Age43.02a (14.13)52.35b (16.90)44.60c (16.48)44.80c (16.92)
Education2.09a (1.26)3.40b (1.04)3.45b (1.41)2.77c (1.51)
Incomeb2645a (37.25)5790b (66.35)3300c (38.18)3107c (31.02)
Identity4.38a (0.59)4.32b (0.51)4.11c (0.61)4.24d (0.62)
In-group Orientation5.08a (0.86)4.16b (0.67)4.30c (0.90)4.76d (0.85)
Out-group Contact1.14a (0.61)1.53b (0.92)1.56b (0.77)2.54c (1.02)
International News1.81a (0.96)2.37b (1.04)2.08c (1.14)2.40b (1.19)
Global Attitude5.11a (0.79)4.26b (0.96)4.19b (0.89)4.72c (0.87)

a Values are means (except for sex), values in parentheses are standard deviations, values in the same row that do not share subscripts differ at p < .001.
b U.S. dollars.

The first research question asked about public opinions toward globalization in East Asia. Measured by 7 items on a 7-point scale (1 = strongly agree, 7 = strongly disagree), the mean for people’s global attitude was 4.65 (SD = 0.71). A one-sample t-test was conducted to compare the variable mean against the middle value of the variable score (i.e., 4.00). The results indicated that it was significantly distant from the middle value, t(8437) = 53.99, p < .001. Citizens in this region generally held quite optimistic opinions toward globalization. There was also evidence that public opinions toward globalization differed across the four countries, F (3, 8,435) = 194.23, p < 001. China stood out as the country holding the most favorable global attitude (M = 5.11, SD = 0.79), followed by citizens from Taiwan (M = 4.72, SD = 0.87), Japanese (M = 4.26, SD = 0.89). South Koreans seemed to be the least enthusiastic (M = 4.19, SD = 0.89) in their evaluations of globalization.

Because bivariate relationships between global attitude and each demographic, cultural and contact variable could be spurious without simultaneous control of other factors, hierarchical multiple regression analyses were conducted. Socio-demographic variables were first entered into the regression equation. Subsequently, in-group orientation and identity were added. And the last block included people’s out-group contact and international news exposure. In view of the significant cross-national variations aforementioned, we broke down the sample into four countries and conducted the same regression analyses presented for each group. It should be pointed out that we were not testing causal relationship. Regression is an efficient way to summarize arelatively large set of relationships. Regression using the full sample was also conducted, where three country dummy variables were created, using China as the reference category. Country dummies were included to soak up any country-specific effects on individuals’ responses. Table 3 illustrated detailed findings from the regression analyses.

Table 3: Public Opinions toward Globalization in East Asia


Full sample



South Korea


Country Dummies
















R2 change
































  R2 change
























  R2 change
























  R2 change






Adjusted R2












Note. **p <.001, *p <.05.

Hypothesis 1 predicted an association between people’s global attitude and their levels of in-group orientation. Regression analyses were conducted, controlling for country variances and demographic factors addressed above. Results indicated that in-group orientation was a significant predictor of attitudes toward globalization in East Asia (β = -0.33, p < 0.001). Consistently across the region, it was negatively correlated with attitude toward globalization in China (β = -0.51, p < 0.001), Japan (β = -0.10, p < 0.001), South Korea (β = -0.28, p < 0.001), and Taiwan (β = -0.21, p < 0.001). All other things being equal, the more in-group oriented respondents were, the less positively they viewed globalization. Hence, H1 was supported.

Our second research question asked whether there was a connection between individual’s sense of national/local identity and their global attitude. As demonstrated in Table 3, no significant association between identity and attitudes toward globalizations was found in the full sample. In addition, no significant association was found in any of the four countries. There was preliminary indication showing that identity and global attitude were not entirely incompatible, at least in the region of East Asia.

Hypothesis 2 proposed that individuals experiencing more out-group contact held more favorable attitudes toward globalization. Regression analyses were conducted, again, controlling for country variances and demographic factors. Results indicated that out-group contact was a significant predictor of attitudes toward globalization in East Asia (β = 0.08, p < 0.001). The same consistent pattern re-occurred, it was positively associated with attitudes toward globalization in China (β = 0.11, p < 0.001), Japan (β = 0.09, p < 0.001), South Korea (β = 0.08, p < 0.001), and Taiwan (β = 0.10, p < 0.001). The more out-group contact people enjoyed through travelling and acquaintance, the more they were in favor of globalization. Hence, H2 was supported.

Hypothesis 3 posited a positive association between people’s exposure to international news and their attitudes toward globalization. Regression analyses were conducted, controlling for country variances and demographic factors. Results revealed that exposure to international news significantly affected people’s attitudes toward globalization in East Asia (β = 0.17, p < 0.001). Again, the consistency has materialized across the region, international news exposure was heavily associated with attitudes toward globalization in China (β = 0.28, p < 0.001), Japan (β = 0.09, p < 0.001), South Korea (β = 0.09, p < 0.001), and Taiwan (β = 0.13, p < 0.001). The more international news people obtained, the more they were in favor of globalization. Therefore, H3 was supported.

The three-pronged framework enables us to explore the differences between the theoretical emphases. Judging from the R:2 change of each block (demographics, culture/identity, and out-group contact including media exposure) and β values for every independent variable, argument could be made that cultural values (e.g., in-group orientation) offered a better explanation of attitudes toward globalization than did out-group contact, which, in turn, was a stronger and more consistent predictor compared to demographic factors.


Globalization as a multifaceted process entails a macro-social change that may in turn induce individual-level attitudinal changes as well. Yet the study of this macro-to-micro mechanism is fairly underdeveloped in the globalization literature. In the context of high collectivistic countries in East Asia, how do we amalgamate the wide range of theoretical perspectives on people’s global attitude? We use individual and national level data to explain the wide variation in attitudes across countries. The current three-pronged research framework provides a refreshing perspective by providing a useful platform to integrate the diverse range and scope of studies in an area that has been under-studied to date. This project examines East Asia people’s attitudes toward globalization and various antecedents informed by different theoretical perspectives. Our results show that individual level data can explain differences in attitudes within a country, but national level data are necessary to explain partially the distribution of attitudes toward globalization across countries. We believe that the study yields novel, culturally relevant, and theoretically expansive results.

First, these findings challenge the notion of a globalization backlash both empirically and theoretically. In no instance in the results presented did we see major negative responses to questions about economic or cultural globalization. Previous studies conducted in Europe and North America presented mixed evidence. In areas such as Northern Europe, for example, the relatively reserved attitude toward globalization is widely shared (Zaravkovic 2007). Findings here, however, revealed that people in East Asia generally welcomed the idea of globalization. Among the four countries examined, China ranked at the top regarding the favorability of globalization. The widespread optimisms among Chinese citizens are largely consistent with the views propagated by the state and the media (Lee et al. 2008). The state’s discourses about the benefits of globalization and the link between globalization and national developments are quite consistent.

Another key finding is that it is culture and out-group contact, more than people’s demographics or material interests, that allow them to make sense of what globalization represents. The influence of demographic factors was dotted with non-significant results or findings inconsistent across four countries. Gender and age are largely irrelevant with people’ favorability of globalization. Income is proven to be a fairly poor and inconsistent predictor of global attitude. Education seems to be a relatively more influential factor, but it lacks consistency in this region. In fact, some recent findings with regard to the effects of education have been conflicting (Feasel & Muzumder 2012). Edwards (2006) suggests that value concerns can be important in public opinion regarding international economic choices because they serve as information shortcuts. On an issue like globalization, which combines complexity and abstractness with an increasingly high media profile charged with emotional arguments (Wolfe & Mendelsohn 2004), individuals are likely to rely on their values to make sense of globalization. Although economic explanations are featured rather prominently in the literature, cultural-symbolic factors such as identities and ideologies are more consequential motivations (Sides & Citrin 2007). The individualism-collectivism dimension is a key socio-psychological construct that accounted for most of the cultural variations. In a collectivist culture, people’s opinions toward globalization may not be related to any perceptions or behaviors in their economic layers. There is a tendency to assign greater priorities to the in-group’s goal over personal preferences. Overall, collectivists tend to make greater distinctions between members of the in-group and the out-group and they practice greater intergroup discrimination. Individuals with more in-group orientation are thus more likely to reject multiculturalism and view globalization negatively. It is now understood that cultural differences are correlated with global attitudes.

Biased dispositions toward out-groups are likely to be eased through out-group contact. Recent research has shown that direct and indirect intercultural contact is able to elicit similar emotional, attitudinal and motivational responses as actual contact experiences. Mass migration plays a major role in the diffusion of global culture (Appadurai 1996). In today’s world of low cost and speedy travel, people are continually moving in and out of their home and other nations and cultures. Traveling to outside cultures, having social contacts with foreigners is actually not so foreign in East Asia (Chua 2004). While some have questioned how much out-group contact actually facilitates cross-cultural understanding (Thompson & Tambyah 1999) and others have noted that it may fuel local resentment in certain cultures and/or regions (Chua 2002), evidence from this study suggests that people who have more travel-related contact with foreign cultures and interactions with out-group members tend to show more positive attitudes toward globalization.

The attribute of media consumption appears as another significant factor in the forming of attitudes to globalization. People are experiencing a form of empowerment mediated through the new information communication technologies and media, perhaps forming a stronger network in the global village. Media provide large and complex repertoires of images, narratives and ethnoscapes to viewers throughout the world from which scripts can be formed of imagined lives of their own as well as those living in other places. To the extent that viewers self-select mass media content covering foreign affairs, they are likely to be exposed to multi-cultural experiences. This increasing familiarity should develop more positive attitudes toward experiences from outside their local or native environment, which is linked to an optimistic view of globalization.

National and local identity, on the other hand, was not a significant predictor of people’s global attitude. Patriotism might not be a precondition to cosmopolitanism. Comparing to the idea that global forces compete for loyalty with the nation in a zero sum game, Turner’s (2002) argument seems quite tenable. That is, growing cosmopolitanism and increasingly positive attitudes toward globalization may not be a sign of weakening national identities. Depending upon how ordinary citizens perceive their country’s involvement in the processes of regional integration and globalization, globalization could be either complementary or contradictory to their sense of national identity. Since citizens from East Asia are generally optimistic about the prospect, it is possible that they do not perceive globalization as threatening to their national identity. Are globalization and regional integration producing a post-national or global identity among a wide variety of publics? The question of the persistence of national identity versus an identity shift beyond existing cultural divisions in a globalizing world will continue to be debated. Hence, from both a theoretical standpoint and an examination of practical implications, the effects of globalization on national identity seem far from clear.

Public perceptions regarding globalization have vacillated over the past few decades and the subject continues to spark heated debates amongst academics and activists. While there is a significant literature focusing on attitudes toward trade and immigration, there has been little work on attitudes toward the larger encompassing subject of globalization. The novelty of this paper lies in our attempt to use the methodology of opinion research to examine individuals’ attitudes for evidence of a proposition about international order. Proponents of globalization believe globalization contributes to the development and improvement of life for people around the world. On the other hand, opponents of globalization argue that globalization can have a deteriorating effect on people’s well-being. The purpose of this study was to investigate certain factors that could affect the development of global attitude and, consequently, population’s willingness to choose sides of globalization debate. With its empirical results, this study contributes to the current globalization literature since this literature frequently employs anecdotal evidence and strong subjective feelings in its investigation. Although we make no claim that individual attitudes are transformed directly into policy at the national or international level, attitudes toward globalization is relevant for international relations and influences the climate in which policy decisions are made.

Limitations and Future Research

This study had a few limitations that need to be addressed. Secondary data used to develop construct and evaluate antecedents of global attitude has been useful and conveniently available; however, we maintain that “attitudes toward globalization” is an important variable in its own right to be examined. With high reliability, attitudes toward economic and cultural globalization were assessed in the study. However, citizens might possess significantly different attitudes toward other dimensions of globalization (e.g., political and environmental). Future research should develop and psychometrically test a scale of the “attitudes toward globalization” construct. It is hardly possible to do justice to the complexities of the discourses in one cross-sectional survey context. Although the study involved the comparison across countries, we did not investigate the potential multiplicative effects between macro and micro factors. We believe that the most promising work in the area will continue to emerge when macro and micro-level variables are modeled interactively.

We need more research to understand the process by which people form opinions about globalization. The findings here offer a number of potential topics for further research. First, there is an important need to expand the construct of globalization beyond its economic implications and understand the entirety of globalization. Secondly, it is clear that independent variables from both culture and value-based approaches should be a focus of further empirical research as well as theorizing. More research is necessary on both the theoretical and empirical fronts to unpack the sources of global attitude. Additional moderator variables such as country level of marketing orientation should also be explored. Such broader studies will ultimately enable tests for potential mediation effects, allowing for a more clearly delineated set of causal relationships among the constructs of culture, collectivism and attitudes toward globalization. Not only is there a need for more empirical data, but there is a need for theory development in order to produce an in-depth understanding of the complex intersectional locus of globalization, public opinion, and cross-national research.

Acknowledgement: East Asian Social Survey (EASS) is based on Chinese General Social Survey (CGSS), Japanese General Social Surveys (JGSS), Korean General Social Survey (KGSS), and Taiwan Social Change Survey (TSCS), and distributed by the East Asian Social Survey Data Archive (EASSDA) of the Academy of East Asian Studies at SungKyunKwan University, South Korea. The author appreciates the assistance in providing data by the institutes aforementioned. The views expressed herein are the author’s own.


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About the Author

Jie Xu (Ph.D., The University of Alabama), is assistant professor in the Department of Communication at Villanova University. Her research interests focus on media effects and strategic communication. Her research has appeared in academic journals such as the International Journal of Public Opinion Research, Public Relations Review, Journal of International Communication, Journal of Development Communication, and China Media Research, among others. Xu has received Top Paper Awards from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, International Communication Association, and Broadcast Education Association. She was the recipient of 2012 Advertising Educational Foundation (AEF) Visiting Professor Program fellowship.

Correspondence Address

Dr. Jie Xu, Department of Communication
Villanova University
800 E Lancaster Ave., Garey Rm 20, Villanova, PA 19085, USA
Phone: 1-610-519-5882
Fax: 1-610-519-7749