comparative politics Japan-related research

JPOSS #11 “The Clash of Traditional Values: Attitudes toward a Male-line Monarchy under a Succession Crisis”

The eleventh session of the Japanese Politics Online Seminar Series (JPOSS) took place on March 4, 2021. Charles Crabtree  (Dartmouth) chaired the seminar and moderated the question and answer session.

Kenneth Mori McElwain (University of Tokyo) and Yuki Shiraito (University of Michigan) presented their paper co-authored with Guoer Liu (University of Michigan), “The Clash of Traditional Values: Attitudes toward a Male-line Monarchy under a Succession Crisis.” In their presentation, McElwain and Shiraito explored how public attitudes toward the ascension of a female monarch in Japan’s traditionally male-only patrilineal imperial system allows scholars to grapple with the tension between preserving the traditions and institutional adaptation (referred to as the clash of values) in the Japanese context. This is a particularly salient issue in Japanese politics given that the small number of legitimate heirs has raised concerns about the viability of the Japanese monarchy. Liu, McElwain and Shiraito explore this topic using a two-wave survey experiment to examine how values are connected to citizens’ attitudes about competing reform proposals, using item counting techniques (list
experiments) to elicit more truthful responses. They find that conservatism and traditional gender norms are associated with stronger opposition to the ascension of female monarchs. Their results suggest that sexism can impede efforts to persuade voters of the material necessity of gender-neutral reforms to established institutions.

Discussant comments were offered by  Margarita Estévez-Abe (Syracuse University) and Cecilia Hyunjung Mo (University of California, Berkeley). The discussion raised interesting questions about the use of list experiments, the roots of sexism, and what prompts monarchical institutions to move away from traditions of male-only patrilineal succession. The discussants and the audience also offered many constructive suggestions pertaining to research methods and possible future directions of the research.

This event attracted over sixty participants and produced an engaging Q&A session. The organizers would like to thank the presenters, discussants, and participants, as well as the staff at the Harvard Program on U.S.-Japan Relations, who provided administrative support. We look forward to seeing you at the next session of JPOSS: