The Clash of Traditional Values: Opposition to Female Monarchs

By Guoer Liu, Kenneth Mori McElwain, and Yuki Shiraito


The revision of sexist laws is complicated not only by disagreements between progressives and traditionalists, but also by opposing views held by different types of traditionalists. We design a two-wave list experiment with information treatments to examine public opinion towards reforming the Japanese monarchy’s male-only patrilineal succession rule, focusing on two strands of traditionalism: conservatism and sexism. We show that conservatism, not sexism, is associated with stronger opposition to the ascension of female monarchs. Moreover, opinions towards gendered succession rules are hard to dislodge, because they are rooted in deep-held values. Treatments that highlight the capability of female heirs, the rarity of current practices in peer nations, and the perils posed by succession crises, fail to change respondent preferences. Our study reveals the discordance within traditional values, and how this can impede efforts to reform statutory gender discrimination.