How do people react to foreign actors’ involvement in a conflict in a third party? Many studies have explored how individuals react to their country’s foreign policy choices, as well as how they react to the policies targeting their countries. Yet, we know less about how they form their attitudes regarding the policies not directly aiming at their own countries, and hence, their well-being. Building on intergroup relations and employing a social psychological approach, this article argues that identity serves as a heuristic through which individuals evaluate foreign actors, and their policies targeting in- and out-group members living abroad. Conducting a survey experiment in Turkey, I test my claims in the context of the Syrian Civil War. The findings of the experiments reveal that transnational identity ties have an impact on attitude formation: Turks and Kurds express positive/negative attitudes towards the USA and Russia conditional on whether their involvement to the conflict favor/disfavor their in-group/out-group across the border. Broadly speaking, the results show that domestic cleavages are of importance in predicting the public’s reaction to the developments in international politics, which implies a necessity of taking domestic politics in designing soft power promotion and public diplomacy strategies for many global and regional powers in attempting to win hearts and minds abroad.
This was originally published on SAGE Publications Ltd: Journal of Peace Research: Table of Contents.