Understanding the effects of perceived ethics failure, compassionate leadership, and communication strategy on anti‐government sentiment

Published date01 November 2018
Date01 November 2018
Understanding the effects of perceived ethics failure,
compassionate leadership, and communication strategy on
antigovernment sentiment
Soojin Kim
|Lisa Tam
|Seung Bach
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences School of
Communication, University of Technology
Sydney, Ultimo, New South Wales, Australia
School of Advertising, Marketing and Public
Relations, Queensland University of
Technology, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
California State University at Sacramento,
Sacramento, California
Soojin Kim, University of Technology Sydney,
City Campus, Building 10, Level 9, Room 219,
Ultimo, NSW 2007, Australia.
Email: soojin.pr@gmail.com
This study conceptualizes antigovernment sentiment and tests the relationships
between antigovernment sentiment and three antecedents (i.e., ethics failure, com-
passionate leadership, and communication strategy). An online survey (n= 1,112)
was conducted in South Korea. Exploratory factor analysis with principal component
analysis and confirmatory factor analysis was conducted on the measures proposed
for antigovernment sentiment. The hypotheses were tested using structural equation
modeling. Results show that publics' perceptions of the government's ethics failure,
lack of compassionate leadership, and use of a buffering strategy for communication
are positively related to their antigovernment sentiment toward the incumbent
On April 16, 2014, the Korean ferry MV Sewolcarrying 476 people
and a large volume of cargocapsized en route between Inchon and
Jeju Island. Only 172 people survived (South Korea Coast Guard Cap-
tain Jailed,2015). The 304 fatalities included 250 high school stu-
dents (First Anniversary of Sewol Ferry Disaster,2015). Eightytwo
percent of 1,008 survey participants in Korea reported that the
government's actions in handling the disaster were improper (Gallup
Korea, 2014). The disaster caused conflict between victims' families
and the Korean Government, resulting in fraught emotions in society
and confrontations between antigovernment activists and the gov-
ernment (Song, Park, & Park, 2015). According to weekly surveys con-
ducted by Gallup Korea in 2014 and 2015, Korean people were
frustrated with the Korean Government due to its lack of transparency
in communication, dismal performance, and lack of responsible leader-
ship (Gallup Korea, 2014).
The ferry disaster is an example of an incident that triggered pub-
lic antagonism against the Korean Government. Because public antag-
onism against the government could be detrimental to public
administration, it is crucial for governments to understand how and
why antigovernment sentiment such as this emerges. Antigovern-
ment sentiment is a complex phenomenon caused by multiple social
and cultural causes (Mansbridge, 1997). It can be multifaceted in form
and meaning in different countries. However, there is a lack of
consensus on how to define and measure antigovernment sentiment
(Owen & Dennis, 2001).
To respond to the lack of research on this phenomenon, this study
takes the following steps. First, we conceptualize antigovernment
sentiment as publics' hostile emotions toward their incumbent
government's behaviors that publics find problematic. Second, we pro-
pose five measurement items based on exploratory factor analysis
(EFA) with principal component analysis (PCA) and confirmatory factor
analysis (CFA). Third, on the basis of Owen and Dennis' (2001) study
on political support, we identify three antecedents to antigovernment
sentiment: ethics failure, compassionate leadership, and buffering
strategy (specifically government communication). Finally, by examin-
ing the relationships among antigovernment sentiment and its ante-
cedents via structural equation modeling (SEM), this study seeks to
propose a theoretical framework of antigovernment sentiment.
2.1 |Conceptualization of antigovernment
Public relations research has found associations between the quality
of the organizationpublic relationship (OPR) and publics' supportive
and/or hostile behaviors toward an organization (e.g., J.N. Kim &
Received: 21 May 2018 Accepted: 17 June 2018
DOI: 10.1002/pa.1848
J Public Affairs. 2018;18:e1848.
© 2018 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/pa 1of10

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