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To purchase or not to purchase US products:

role of religiosity, animosity, and


ethno-centrism among Malaysian consumers
Zafar Ahmed
School of Business, Lebanese American University, Chouran, Lebanon

Rosdin Anang
Faculty of Business, Universiti Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Nor Othman
Department of Marketing and Information Systems, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and

Murali Sambasivan
Graduate School of Management, Universiti Malaysia Kelantan, Serdang, Malaysia
Abstract
Purpose The main purpose of this research is to empirically test how animosity, religiosity, and ethnocentrism interact to affect judgment about
US products and purchase action of consumers in a progressive Islamic country like Malaysia. There are many studies that have been
conducted in conservative Islamic countries such as Iran, Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
Design/methodology/approach The product chosen for this research is US fast food restaurants. A questionnaire was constructed and responses
were obtained from 410 Malaysian consumers from different ethnic backgrounds. The authors tested the framework using structural equation
modeling (SEM). Findings Based on the test results, the authors conclude the following significant relationships: animosity on purchase
action of consumers, ethnocentric tendencies on animosity of consumers, religiosity on ethnocentric tendencies of consumers, religiosity on
animosity of consumers, ethnocentric tendencies of consumers on judgment of foreign product, foreign product judgment of consumers on purchase
action, and animosity and ethnocentrism play mediating roles.
Originality/value The current study adds significantly to the body of knowledge on consumer behavior, especially the roles of animosity,
religiosity, and ethnocentrism. The findings can help marketing managers to formulate appropriate strategies when consumers decide to boycott US
products.
Keywords Religiosity, Malaysia, Animosity, Ethnocentrism, US products
Paper type Research paper
An executive summary for managers and executive
readers can be found at the end of this article.

the consumers not to patronize US products and services.


According to Charney and Yakatan (2005, p. 8), The image
of the US has deteriorated significantly since 2001
particularly across the Muslim world. The spread of
anti-US feeling in the Islamic world is a serious problem for
the US. The growth of hostility to America in Muslim
countries increases recruitment and support for extremism
and terror. The anti-US sentiments worldwide is one of the
reasons contributing to US recession (Ross, 2009). According
to Chiozza (2008), a global study conducted by Pew
Foundation reveal that 70 percent of Iranians, 62 percent of
Jordanians, 51 percent of Moroccans, 68 percent of
Pakistanis, and 64 percent of Saudi Arabians are in favor of
boycotting US products and services. Recent studies have
highlighted the hostility of consumers across Muslim
countries toward US and European products (Bahaee and
Pisani, 2009; Benterki, 2009; Leong, 2008; Maher and Mady,
2010; Rose et al., 2008). It is a common belief that consumers
make rational choices about products by comparing and
contrasting the various attributes of the products. But,
emotions play a major role in consumer purchase of foreign

Introduction
Favorable or unfavorable disposition of consumers towards a
country results in acceptance or rejection of products or
services offered by that country (Maheswaran, 2006).
Consumers may have a feeling of hostility or animosity
towards certain countries resulting in boycotting their
products and services (Klein et al., 1998; Smith and Li,
2010). According to AlShebil et al. (2011), consumer
boycotts are increasingly being used by various activist and
religious groups to punish targeted countries. The policies of
the US (US) across the Middle-East and Afghanistan have
been the subject of criticism in many countries dominated by
Muslims and religious groups in these countries have urged
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
www.emeraldinsight.com/0887-6045.htm

Journal of Services Marketing


27/7 (2013) 551 563
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited [ISSN 0887-6045]
[DOI 10.1108/JSM-01-2012-0023]

Received 28 January 2012


Revised 4 June 2012
Accepted 20 August 2012

551

To purchase or not to purchase US products

Journal of Services Marketing

Zafar Ahmed, Rosdin Anang, Nor Othman and Murali Sambasivan

Volume 27 Number 7 2013 551 563

products and the recent studies support this contention


(Maheswaran, 2006).
The role of religiosity in consumer behavior is well
established (Bailey and Sood, 1993; Essoo and Dibb, 2004;
McDaniel and Burnett, 1990; Mokhlis, 2006; Sood and
Nasu, 1995; Wilkes et al., 1986). Scholars have argued that
religiosity is very personal and its influence on consumer
behavior is dependent upon an individuals level of religious
commitment. In predominantly Muslim countries like
Malaysia, the level of religious commitment among
individuals in high and therefore, it is plausible to observe
the impact of religiosity on the purchase behavior of
consumers (Kamaruddin, 2009).
Another factor that plays a significant role in the purchase
of foreign products is the ethnocentric behavior of the
consumers (Shimp and Sharma, 1987). There are several
studies that have established the link between the ethnocentric
tendencies, product judgment and purchase behavior of
consumers (Erdener and Ali, 2002; Lu and Zhen, 2004; Saffu
et al., 2010; Taewon and Ik-Whan, 2002). Scholars have
shown that in a society where the members have strong
ethnocentric tendencies, the consumers tend to have negative
views about foreign products and therefore, do not favor
buying foreign products.
A research question that is addressed in this study is how
these three important constructs (animosity, religiosity, and
ethnocentrism) interact to affect product judgment and
purchase action of consumers in a progressive Islamic
country such as Malaysia. According to Hashim and
Mahpuz (2011), the blend of tolerance, compromise
between multi-religious ethnic groups and advancements in
science and technology has made Malaysia a model nation for
Islamic countries. As indicated earlier, there are many studies
that study the impact of each of these constructs on purchase
behavior of consumers (Kamaruddin, 2009; Maheswaran,
2006; Shimp and Sharma, 1987). However, there is a dearth
of empirical studies that study the combined effect of these
constructs. Another factor that motivated this research is the
location of the study. Malaysia is one of the fastest developing
and progressive countries in South-East Asia. It is a
multi-cultural country with three major ethnic groups:
Malays, Chinese and Indians. About 60 percent of the
citizens in Malaysia are Muslims, 30 percent Chinese, and
10 percent Indians and others and Islam is the official religion
of the country. This diversity is unique to Malaysia when
compared to other Islamic countries (Hashim and Mahpuz,
2011). Earlier studies in conservative Islamic countries like
Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Jordan have
shown significant animosity towards US products and services
(Bahaee and Pisani, 2009; Benterki, 2009; Chiozza, 2008;
Leong, 2008; Maher and Mady, 2010; Rose et al., 2008). Are
US products boycotted by certain consumers in a progressive
Islamic country like Malaysia? How do animosity, religiosity,
and ethnocentrism interact with each other and influence
Malaysian consumers product judgment and purchase
behavior?
Our study falls under the category of country of origin
(COO) research in services with a focus on US. In this study,
we have chosen US fast-food restaurants operating across
Malaysia as the service product category. There is a significant
presence of these restaurants in Malaysia such as KFC,
McDonald, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Starbucks and A&W.
Javalgi et al. (2001) have argued that future research on
country of origin (COO) effects in service industry should
examine the areas in which greatest service export/import

growth occurs, and what service is currently the largest traded


internationally. They have recommended US fast food
restaurants as an important area of study because of their
significant international presence.

Literature review
An initial study by Schooler (1965), triggered a plethora of
studies documenting the influence of COO on the product
evaluation and purchase behavior of consumers (e.g. Ahmed
and dAstous, 2001; Bilkey and Nes, 1982; Bruning, 1997;
Han and Terpstra, 1988; Lee et al., 1992; Papadopoulos et al.,
1998; Samiee, 1994). However, there is a dearth of studies
related to service products (Javalgi et al., 2001).
According to Papadopoulos et al. (1998), the consumer
perceptions of a products COO is based on three
components of attitude (cognition, affection and conation).
Cognition refers to the knowledge about the products or
services; affection refers to the favorable or unfavorable
attitude towards the COO; and conation refers to the actual
buying behavior. The affection or the emotional component
can play a dominant role in the purchase of foreign products
or services (Kinra, 2006). The constructs animosity,
ethnocentric tendencies, and religiosity used in this research
are important emotional components influencing consumer
behavior (Klein et al. 1998; Shimp and Sharma, 1987; Sood
and Nasu, 1995).
Many researchers have used dual process models as a
theoretical basis for understanding COO effects and the dual
process of persuasion is: systematic processing and heuristic
processing (Chaiken, 1980; Eagly and Chaiken, 1984; Petty
and Cacioppo, 1986; Maheswaran et al., 1992). These models
suggest that COO
perceptions influence subsequent
evaluations of products or services associated with that
country and perceptions of the country are associated with
emotional components. According to Tiedens and Linton
(2001), emotional components influence persuasion. Many
scholars have shown that the positive or negative valence of
the mood state influences subsequent evaluations of a target
(Maheswaran, 2006, p. 4). It is well known that the
generalized mood significantly influences persuasion and
specific emotions in that mood have differential effects on
persuasion (Bodenhausen et al., 1994; DeStono et al., 2000;
Johnson and Tversky, 1983; Lerner and Keltner, 2000). The
construct animosity, used in this study falls under this
category and this emotion induces heuristic processing of
persuasion (Bodenhausen et al., 1994). There are many
definitions for animosity but in this research, we use the
following definition proposed by Klein et al. (1998, p. 90):
animosity is remnants of antipathy related to previous or
ongoing military, political, or economic events.
The ethnocentric behavior of consumers can be explained
through the social identity theory (SIT) (Turner, 1987).
According to this theory, ethnocentrism occurs when
consumers see themselves as members of a distinct group
rather than unique individuals. This process leads them to
adopt a social identity where their beliefs, ideas, attitudes,
values and behaviors tend to reflect norms of their group and
they see their group as superior, positive and distinct as
compared to others (Turner, 1987). If based in developed
(western) countries, the members of this distinctive group
view foreign products as inferior and threatening to their
country and consequently do not favor them. This attitude of
consumers has a direct effect on the purchase of foreign
products (Erdener and Ali, 2002; Saffu et al., 2010; Lu and

Zhen, 2004; Taewon and Ik-Whan, 2002). The construct,


ethnocentrism, used in this study comes from SIT and is
defined as the view of things in which ones own group is the
center of everything, and all others are scaled with reference
to it [. . .] each group nourishes its own pride and vanity,
boasts itself superior, exalts its own divinities, and looks with
contempt on outsiders (Sumner, 1906, p. 18).
Religion provides an individual with personal as well as
social identity within the context of a cosmic or metaphysical
background (Marty and Appleby, 1991). Religiosity is the
religious commitment of individuals towards their faith(s)
(Johnson et al., 2001). The concept of religiosity, like
ethnocentrism, emanates from the SIT. Many scholars have
studied the impact of religiosity on purchase behavior and
have argued that religiosity should be considered as a possible
determinant of purchase behavior (Bailey and Sood, 1993;
Jianfeng et al., 2009; Mokhlis, 2006; Sood and Nasu, 1995).
Religiositys frontiers consist of six dimensions: belief,
experience,
religious practice,
religious knowledge,
individual moral consequences, and social consequences
(De Jong et al., 1976).
Scholarly literature on ethnocentrism and animosity
argues
both concepts as antecedents of purchase intention of
foreign and domestic products (Javalgi et al., 2005; Maher
and Mady,
2010). Where does religiosity fit in? According to Altintas and
Tokol (2007), religiosity is one of the antecedents of
ethnocentrism. According to Maher and Mady (2010),
effects of animosity, social norms, and anticipated
emotions as antecedents to animosity might differ based on
individuals level of religiosity. Therefore, we argue that
understanding the interactions between
religiosity,
ethnocentrism and animosity and their combined effect(s)
are critical to understanding the purchase behavior of
consumers towards foreign products in a progressive Islamic
country like Malaysia. In this study, we consider the
influence
of five constructs on Malaysian consumers:
animosity, ethnocentrism, religiosity, product judgment, and
purchase action. The framework used in this research is
given in Figure 1 and the service category studied in this
research is US fast food restaurants located across Klang
Valley of Malaysia.
Figure 1 Research framework

Hypotheses development
Relationship between animosity and purchase behavior
Our arguments are based on the studies that have established
the role of emotions in influencing the use of COO on
product/service evaluations (Lerner and Keltner, 2000;
Maheswaran, 2006; Tiedens and Linton, 2001). Based on
the theory of dual process of persuasion (Maheswaran, 2006),
consumers with a high level of animosity towards a particular
country are prone to impulsive and quick response to
products/services because of the past or future actions of the
country that may be in the form of military aggression,
economic sanctions and political blackmail. Many scholars
have established a strong link between animosity and
purchase behavior of consumers towards the products
produced by countries that have conflicts (Ang et al., 2004;
Bahaee and Pisani, 2009; Klein et al., 1998; Nijssen and
Douglas, 2004; Rose et al., 2008). Based on above arguments,
we hypothesize that:
H1.

There is a negative relationship between feeling of


animosity towards a country and purchase behavior of
consumers towards products made by that country.

Relationship between ethnocentric tendencies of


consumers and their purchase behavior
Ever since Shimp and Sharma (1987) developed the
CETSCALE to measure ethnocentrism, many studies that
link ethnocentrism and purchase behavior of consumers have
been reported (Lu and Zhen, 2004; Erdener and Ali, 2002;
Herche, 1994; Javalgi et al., 2005; Kaynak and Kara, 2002;
Rose et al., 2008; Saffu et al., 2010; Sharma et al., 1995;
Witkowski, 2000) and have shown a significant relationship
between ethnocentrism and purchase behavior of consumers.
When consumers are strongly ethnocentric, they shun foreign
products. Animosity coupled with ethnocentrism can have a
telling effect on the purchase behavior of consumers towards
foreign products (Shankarmahesh, 2006). A study by Herche
(1994) indicates that ethnocentric tendencies of consumers
have greater explanatory power in terms of variations in
purchase behavior of consumers than marketing mix
variables. Based on these arguments, we hypothesize that:

H2.

The higher the level of ethnocentric tendencies of


consumers, the lower their intention to purchase
foreign products.

Relationship between religiosity and purchase behavior


of consumers
One of the earlier scholarly works linking religiosity and
purchase behavior is by Sood and Nasu (1995), who through
their study in Japan and US have established the relationship
between religiosity and purchase behavior. Delener (1994) by
studying the relationship between religiosity of consumers and
automobile purchase decision-making has argued that
religiosity should be used as an important construct in
understanding purchase patterns of consumers. Jianfeng et al.
(2009) in their study in China have concluded that religiosity
is strongly linked with behavior and purchase decisions of
consumers. According to Samli (1995) and Choi (2009),
religiosity has a strong influence not only on consumption
patterns but also on purchase behavior and product
preferences of consumers. A study by Srivastava (2010)
shows that religion and religiosity of consumers in emerging
markets like India affect buying intention of consumers
towards foreign and domestic products. Based on these
evidences, we hypothesize that:
H3.

The stronger the religiosity of consumers, the lower the


intention to purchase foreign products.

Relationship between ethnocentrism and animosity


towards foreign products
Lwin et al. (2010) have studied four countries based on
varying levels of ethnocentrism and US-focused animosity
and have concluded that there is a strong link between
animosity and ethnocentrism. According to Jimenez and San
Martin (2010), socio-psychological variables (ethnocentrism
and animosity) are interrelated. A study by Crnjak-Karanovic
et al. (2005)
on the interaction between animosity,
ethnocentrism and product judgment in Croatia has found a
strong positive relationship between ethnocentrism and
animosity. Kea and Phau (2006) in their study have
contended that ethnocentrism and animosity are positively
correlated. Based on these arguments, we hypothesize that:
H4.

Ethnocentric tendencies of consumers have a positive


relationship with animosity towards foreign products.

H5.

Relationship between religiosity and animosity of


consumers
Ever since Klein et al. (1998) wrote about the concept of
animosity, many studies have featured this construct while
studying purchase intentions and behavior (Ang et al., 2004;
Bahaee and Pisani, 2009; Nijssen and Douglas, 2004). For
instance, a study by Sood and Nasu (1995) propose the effect
of religiosity on animosity. Yemelianova (2005), in her study
on kinship, ethnicity and religion in post-communist societies,
reveals how Tsarist ideologists channeled Cossacks deep
religiosity into animosity towards Muslim neighbors. Kasoma
(2010) has alluded to a strong link between religiosity and
animosity based on the case studies across Africa. Based on
these arguments, we hypothesize that:
H6.

There is a positive relationship between religiosity and


animosity towards foreign products from countries of
conflict.

Relationship between religiosity, ethnocentrism,


animosity and product judgment
Kea and Phau (2006), based on their study in China, have
argued that ethnocentrism and consumer animosity have a
strong negative relationship with foreign product judgment.
According to Nijssen et al. (1999), ethnocentrism and
animosity are negatively correlated to foreign product
judgment as evidenced in a study carried out in a town in
The Netherlands bordering Germany. During the period of
less or no conflict between two neighboring countries
(Netherlands and Germany), they found the effect of
ethnocentrism and animosity to be less significant. A similar
result has been observed by Rose et al. (2008) during their
study with Muslim Arabs and Jewish Israelis on their attitude
toward foreign products. In a recent study, Josiassen (n.d.)
has introduced a new construct called consumer
disidentification that in his opinion has a better explanatory
power than ethnocentrism when it comes to product
judgment. However, in this study we are not using this new
construct. There is a dearth of studies linking religiosity and
product judgment. Based on the above arguments, we
propose the following relationships:
H7.

Relationship between religiosity and ethnocentric


tendencies of consumers
It is the early US literature that has examined religiosity and
ethnocentrism in great length (Brown, 2005). For instance,
an empirical-theological study by Capucao (1965) is one of
the earliest empirical studies that established the link between
religiosity and ethnocentrism. Many studies have established
the link between religiosity and ethnocentrism (Billiet, 1995;
Eisinga et al., 1990; Katz, 1992). However a recent study by
Hooghe (2008) has found that there is no consensus on the
impact of religion (religiosity) on ethnocentrism. He further
contends that the relationship may be curvilinear with the
highest ethnocentrism levels among believers that are only
marginally connected to organized religion (p. 3). It is
interesting to study the relationship between religiosity and
ethnocentrism in a country like Malaysia which besides being
an Islamic country has a confluence of three cultures, Malay,
Chinese and Indian. We hypothesize that:

There is a positive relationship between religiosity and


ethnocentric tendencies of consumers.

H8.

Animosity of consumers toward a foreign country will


make them have a negative judgment about the
product from that country.
Ethnocentric tendencies of consumers will make them
have a negative judgment about the products from the
foreign country that has conflicts.

Relationship between foreign product judgment and


purchase behavior of consumers
According to traditional COO cues; there is a direct
relationship between consumers product judgments and
their buying behavior(s) (Cheah and Phau, 2006).
Consumers often judge foreign products based on their
perceptions that are influenced by several factors external to
the products (Nguyen et al., 2008; Shin, 2001). COO could
be one of such factors. Taewon and Ik-Whan (2002) have
shown that product judgment plays an important role in
influencing purchase behavior of foreign products in certain
cultural context as evidenced by their study comparing US

and Korean consumers. A study by Ettenson and Klein


(2005) indicate that product judgment is predictive of prior
purchase behavior(s). However, a recent study by Smith and
Li (2010) on the boycott of Japanese products by Chinese
consumers has shown that product judgment is linked to
willingness to participate in product boycotts (purchase
behavior). Based on these arguments, we hypothesize that:
H9.

Product judgment of consumers has a positive


relationship with purchase behavior of consumers;
the more favorable the product judgment, the more
favorable is the intention to buy foreign products.

Methodology
This study uses questionnaire-based survey method to collect
data and test the hypotheses. The foreign product that has
been chosen for this research is US-based fast food
restaurants such as KFC, McDonald, Burger King, Pizza
Hut, Starbucks and A&W located across Malaysia. According
to Javalgi et al. (2001), service industry such as fast-food
restaurants has a significant international presence and is also
one of the fastest growing industries across the world. The
respondents were selected from the Klang Valley, a region
housing all major international fast-food restaurants. The
sampling method employed was convenience sampling, a
non-probabilistic method. Only the respondents who were
aware of the US fast food restaurants were requested to fill up
the questionnaire. The samples were contacted mainly
through referrals and random calls. The instrument was
distributed to 600 consumers and 410 completed
questionnaires were returned (a response rate of 68
percent). Out of 410 responses, seven were found
incomplete and dropped from further consideration. An
analysis was done based on 403 responses.
Measure religiosity
This study has adapted the items developed by Wilkes et al.
(1986) to measure the construct, religiosity. This construct
has four items and is measured using a seven-point Likert
scale with 1 indicating strongly disagree and 7
indicating strongly agree. The items are given in the
Appendix.
Measure consumer animosity
The items for this construct have been adapted from the study
by Nijssen and Douglas (2004). This construct has 11 items
and is measured using a seven-point Likert scale with 1
indicating strongly disagree and 7 indicating strongly
agree. The items are given in Appendix.
Measure consumer ethnocentrism
The items for this construct have been adapted based on the
study by Shimp and Sharma (1987). They have developed a
CETSCALE with 17 items and this scale has been tested in
many studies. CETSCALE is measured using a seven-point
Likert scale with 1 indicating strongly disagree and 7
indicating strongly agree. The items are given in the
Appendix.
Measure product judgment
The items for this construct have been adapted from the study
by Darling and Arnold (1988). This construct has 13 items
and is measured using a seven-point Likert scale with 1
indicating strongly disagree and 7 indicating strongly

agree. Many scholars such as Shin (2001), Nijssen and


Douglas (2004), Ettenson and Klien (2005) have used this
scale to study the effect of animosity on product judgment.
The items are given in the Appendix.
Measure purchase behavior
The items for this construct have been adapted from the study
by Pullman et al. (1997). This construct has five items and is
measured using a seven-point Likert scale with 1 indicating
strongly disagree and 7 indicating strongly agree. The
items are given in the Appendix.

Results
The demographic profile of the respondents is given in Table I.
The Malaysian population is composed of three main ethnic
groups; Malays, Chinese, and Indians. All the ethnic groups
are represented adequately in the sample. The religious
affiliations of the respondents are also adequately represented
with majority (46.4 percent) being affiliated to Islam. The
Malaysian population consists of: 60 percent Muslims, 19
percent Buddhists, 9 percent Christians, 6 percent Hindus
and 6 percent others. When compared to other Islamic
countries, Malaysia is unique as it has people from all the
ethnic groups living in peace and harmony. The sample
respondents are from different backgrounds with different
qualifications and different professions.
The mean values of various constructs are given in Table
II and some values deserve mention. The highest mean values
are for religiosity and animosity. This result is not surprising
given
the fact that majority of the population in Malaysia
are
Muslims. The sentiments of the Muslims in Malaysia
reflect the sentiments of the Muslims in other parts of the
world. However, the levels of animosity and religiosity are not
too high (mean of animosity 4.58 on a seven-scale;
mean of religiosity 4.60 on a seven-scale). The level of
ethnocentric
tendencies are moderate (mean value 4.08 on a sevenscale).
These results are not surprising since Malaysia is considered
to be a progressive Islamic country. An ethnocentric
tendencies score of 4.08 on a seven-scale indicate the
Malaysian consumers are moderately ethnocentric. The
mean score on
purchase behavior is 3.78 on a seven-scale. Despite
being
religious and having significant levels of animosity towards US
because of its foreign policies and aggressive actions
across Muslim
countries
such as Iraq,
Iran,
and
Afghanistan, Malaysian consumers are not overtly averse
to patronizing
the US fast food restaurants. The correlation values
between
different constructs are given in Table II. The table shows
that all correlation values are significant.
Reliability and validity of constructs
Reliability of the instrument was tested using Cronbachs
Alpha. The Alpha scores for each construct are given in
Table III. Based on the results, it can be seen that Alpha
scores lie between 0.721 and 0.960. According to Nunnally
(1978), a Cronbachs Alpha scores of 0.70 and above are
considered adequate for the reliability of the instrument. We
tested validity of the constructs using confirmatory factor
analysis (CFA). We ran the CFA model for each construct
using LISREL 8.52 and the results are given in Table III.
Based on the results of CFA, all constructs satisfy the criteria
recommended for CFA , 0.08 for RMSEA and RMR;

. 0.9 for GFI, CFI and NFI; , 3.0 for Chi-square/df (Hair

et al., 2006). Composite reliabilities (CR) and average


variance extracted (AVE) were calculated for each construct

Table I Demographic profiles of respondents


Demographic profile
%

Frequency

Gender
Male
Female

171
232

42.4
57.6

Age
Below 19 years
20 to 29 years
30 to 39 years
40 to 49 years
Above 50 years

27
198
107
62
9

6.7
49.1
26.6
15.4
2.2

Ethnic background
Malay
Chinese
Indian
Bumiputra Sabah and Sarawak
Others

183
170
38
6
6

45.4
42.2
9.4
1.5
1.5

Marital status
Single
Married without children
Married with children
Divorce, widow, separated

214
33
151
5

53.1
8.2
37.5
1.2

Education level
High school
College diploma
Bachelor degree/professional degree

101
67
240

23.8
16.6
59.6

86
91
79
66
31
27
23

21.3
22.6
19.6
16.4
7.7
6.7
5.7

Number of members in the household


One to two persons
Three to four persons
Five to six persons
Seven persons and above

44
148
150
61

10.9
36.7
37.2
15.1

Occupation
Management
Executive
Professional (engineer/lawyer etc.)
Government servant (professional)
Government servant (support staff)
School teacher
Self-employed/businessman
Clerical
Student
Housewife
Others

18
73
35
16
18
32
22
13
144
7.0
25

4.5
18.1
8.7
4.0
4.5
7.9
5.5
3.2
35.7
1.7
6.2

Religion
Islam
Christianity
Buddhism/Taoism
Hinduism
No religion
Others

187
47
122
27
17
3

46.4
11.7
30.3
6.7
4.2
0.7

Monthly household income


Below RM1,000
RM1,000 to RM2,999
RM3,000 to RM4,999
RM5,000 to RM6,999
RM7,000 to RM8,999
RM9,000 to RM10,999
RM11,000 and above

Note: n=403

to test convergent and discriminant validities. According to


Podsakoff et al. (2003), for convergent and discriminant
validities the following conditions must be met for each
construct: CR must be greater than 0.7, AVE must be greater
than 0.5, and AVE must be greater than the squared
correlations. Based on the information given in
Tables II and III, it can be seen that all the conditions are met.
Hypotheses testing
Hypotheses testing was performed using structural equation
modeling (SEM), that enables the estimation of a series
of
separate,
but
interdependent, multiple
regression
equations
simultaneously by specifying the structural model used by the
statistical program (Hair et al., 2006). SEM provides
information about
the
hypothesized impact
both,
directly
from one variable to another and via other variables positioned
between the other two. For the purpose of conducting
SEM, the covariance matrix has been used as an input to
empirically estimate the strength of each relationship (path)
(Hair et al.,
2006). We ran the SEM model using LISREL 8.52. The
results of the SEM model are given in Table IV. The model
fit statistics based on the SEM output are: RMSEA
0.00051, RMR 0.00031, Chi-square/df 0.01, p-value
for test of close fit 0.94, GFI 0.99, CFI 0.99. These
values are within the threshold limits prescribed by Hair et
al. (2006). The following inferences can be made from the
outputs: H1 establishes the link between the feeling of
animosity and purchase action of the consumers of Malaysia
and is strongly supported (r 2 0.25, t-value 2 3.24, p
0.041) implying that if the level of animosity increases, the
purchase behavior favors boycott of foreign product(s); H2
tests the relationship between ethnocentric tendencies and
purchase behavior and the hypothesis is not supported (r 2
0.037, t-value 2 0.47, p-value 0.34); H3 specifies the
link between
religiosity and purchase
behavior
of
consumers. Based on the results, this relationship is not
supported (r 2 0.01, t-value 2 0.2, p-value 0.43); H4
establishes the link between ethnocentric tendencies and
animosity of consumers and is supported (r 0.74, tvalue 18.30,
p-value 0.001). This
implies that
ethnocentric tendencies of the consumers fuel the feeling
of animosity towards a foreign product that originates
from a country that attracts hatred and criticisms because
of its actions; H5 tests the relationship between religiosity and
ethnocentric
tendencies
and
the
relationship
is
supported (r 0.75, t-value 22.64, p-value 0.000). This
implies that the higher the religiosity of consumers; the
higher
the ethnocentric tendencies of consumers; H6
establishes the link between religiosity and animosity of
consumers towards products of certain foreign countries.
Based on the results of the test, there is a positive
relationship between religiosity and animosity (r 0.13, tvalue 3.1,
p-value 0.045);
H7 specifies the link
between animosity of consumers and their judgment of
foreign products and the link is not supported (r 2
0.065, t-value 2 0.3, p-value 0.4); H8 establishes the
relationship between ethnocentric tendencies of consumers
and their judgment of foreign products and the hypothesis is
supported (r 2 0.44, t-value 2 4.87, p-value 0.02).
This implies that judgment of foreign products is clouded by
the ethnocentric tendencies of the consumers; H9 establishes
the link between foreign product judgment of consumers and
their purchase
behavior.
Based on the tests, this
hypothesis is supported (r 0.38, t-value 8.05, p-value
0.008).

We did not explicitly hypothesize the mediating roles of


animosity and ethnocentrism but we tested for the mediation

effects. Specifically, we tested


animosity

the mediating

roles of

Table II Descriptive statistics and correlations


Variables
Consumer religiosity
Consumer animosity
Consumer ethnocentrism
Product judgment
Purchase action

Mean

SD

Religiosity

Consumer animosity

Consumer ethnocentrism

Product judgment

Purchase action

4.6
4.6
4.1
4.3
3.8

1.3
1.3
1.5
0.75
1.06

1
0.683 *
0.749 *
2 0.333 *
2 0.320 *

0.47
1
0.838 *
2 0.406 *
2 0.431 *

0.56
0.70
1
2 0.464 *
2 0.419 *

0.1024
0.17
0.22
1
0.495 *

0.26
0.19
0.18
0.25
1

Note: *Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (numbers above the diagonal are squared correlations)

Table III Reliability and validity tests


Variables
Consumer religiosity
Consumer animosity
Consumer ethnocentrism
Product judgment
Purchase action

Reliability/CR/AVE

GFI

RMSEA

Validity test
RMR

ChiSQ/df

p-value

0.72/0.73/0.61
0.92/0.924/0.75
0.96/0.956/0.78
0.64/0.66/0.52
0.66/0.79/0.54

Saturated fit
0.96
0.98
0.92
0.94

Saturated fit
0.056
0.064
0.078
0.072

Saturated fit
0.038
0.047
0.067
0.070

Saturated fit
1.16
1.09
1.86
1.75

Saturated fit
0.23
0.36
0.15
0.22

Notes: CR composite reliability; AVE average variance extracted

Table IV Results of the SEM model


SNo

Relationship

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9

Animosity and purchase action


Ethnocentrism and purchase action
Religiosity and purchase action
Ethnocentrism and animosity
Religiosity and ethnocentrism
Religiosity and animosity
Animosity and product judgment
Ethnocentrism and product judgment
Product judgment and purchase action

Standardized coefficient, r

t-value/p-value

2 0.26
2 0.037
2 0.01
0.74
0.75
0.13
2 0.065
2 0.44
0.38

2 3.24/0.041 *
2 0.47/0.34
2 0.2/0.43
18.30/0.001 *
22.64/0/0.000 *
3.1/0.045 *
2 0.3/0.4
2 4.87/0.02 *
8.05/0.008 *

Notes: *Significant at 0.05 level; RMSEA 0.00051; RMR 0.00031; Chi-square/df 0.01; p-value for test of close fit 0.94; GFI 0.99; CFI 0.99

between religiosity and purchase action and ethnocentrism


between religiosity and product judgment using Sobels test.
Based on the results of the test, following can be inferred:
animosity mediates the relationship between religiosity and
purchase action (Sobels test t-value 2.24, p-value 0.025)
and ethnocentrism mediates
the relationship between
religiosity and product judgment (Sobels test t-value
4.76, p-value 0.000). There are many studies that report
direct effects of religiosity, animosity and ethnocentrism on
product judgment and purchase action (Ang et al., 2004;
Bahaee and Pisani, 2009; Herche, 1994; Kea and Phau,
2006; Rose et al.,
2008; Sood and Nasu, 1995). Our results are interesting
since the earlier studies have not looked at the mediating roles of
animosity and ethnocentrism.

Discussion and marketing implications


At this point it is useful to recap the mean scores of each
construct
(animosity 4.58,
ethnocentrism 4.08,
religiosity 4.60, product judgment 4.32, purchase
behavior 3.78), indicating that Malaysian consumers are

moderate (scores are on a scale of 7). This result is not


completely surprising since Malaysia is a country that is a
confluence of three cultures (Malay, Chinese and Indian). Of
the five constructs used in this study, three constructs
(animosity, religiosity and ethnocentric tendencies) are
generic and is not linked to any specific product. However,
the two constructs (product judgment and purchase behavior)
are specific to a specific product, US fast food restaurants.
This research was set to answer two main questions: Are
US products boycotted by certain consumers in a progressive
Islamic country like Malaysia? How do animosity, religiosity,
and ethnocentrism interact with each other and influence
Malaysian consumers product judgment and purchase
behavior? Our study reveals that Malaysian consumers are
moderate in their emotions, attitudes and behavior and
therefore, they do not favor complete boycott of US products
and this is evident from the mean scores of various constructs.
The product, we have chosen in this study, US fast food
restaurants, falls under low-involvement product category.
Few studies have found strong leveraging COO effects on
global branding image (Ahmed et al., 2003). They have also

found that COO effect on consumer purchase decisions is


weak for low involvement products; but is strong for cruise
lines across Singapore. Zbib et al. (2010) have found a strong
impact of COO on Lebanese consumers attitude towards
global snacks. Ahmed et al. (2010) have found a strong impact
of COO on Lebanese consumers purchase behavior. An
earlier study by Chiozza (2008) reveals that Iranians,
Jordanians, Moroccans, Pakistanis and Saudi Arabians favor
complete boycott of US products. Zbib et al. (2011) found a
strong relationship between COO and global shampoo brands
across Lebanon.
The second question can be answered by reconstructing the
framework based on the significant relationships that is given
in Figure 2. This study has revealed three paths that greatly
influence the purchase
of US products by Malaysian
consumers:
1 Religiosity animosity purchase behavior.
2 Religiosity ethnocentrism animosity purchase
behavior.
3 Religiosity ethnocentrism product judgment
purchase behavior.
An analysis of the three paths indicates the following roles:
.
religiosity plays a significant role in influencing animosity
levels and ethnocentric tendencies of consumers (Katz,
1992; Kea and Phau, 2006; Klein et al., 1998) and
between the two, religiosity influences ethnocentric
tendencies more;
.
ethnocentric tendencies plays a significant role in
influencing animosity and product judgment (Lwin et al.,
2010; Nijssen et al., 1999) and between the two,
ethnocentric tendencies influence animosity more;
.
ethnocentric tendencies and religiosity play a significant
role in influencing animosity (Billiet, 1995; Karanovic
et al., 2005) and between the two, ethnocentric tendencies
influence more; and
.
animosity and product judgment play a significant role in
influencing purchase behavior (Nijssen et al., 1999; Smith
and Li, 2010) and between the two, product judgment
influences more.

Figure 2 Final framework based on significant relationships

Further analyses have revealed the mediating roles of


animosity and ethnocentrism. Specifically, the results have
shown that animosity mediates the relationship between
religiosity and purchase action and ethnocentrism mediates
the relationship between religiosity and product judgment.
What are the implications? A research that studies the
purchase behavior of consumers toward foreign products
especially, under conditions of animosity, must include the
three constructs: animosity, religiosity and ethnocentric
tendencies. The combined effects of these constructs can be
vital in explaining the purchase behavior of consumers. This
research has shown that increase in animosity levels is
compounded by the influences of religiosity and ethnocentric
tendencies. Therefore, even an incident like the attack of
Israeli commandos aboard the Turkish vessel, Mavi
Marmara; can whip up the feelings of animosity in
countries dominated by Muslims.
Negative reactions to the US policies across Asia and Middle
East may not affect US products in short term but over long
term the animosity of consumers may graduate to become
stable animosity. It may be worse if the consuming nations
have better alternatives to the US products. Animosity
levels and hostilities will lower the judgment of US
products and therefore, reduce the purchase actions of
consumers. Any provocation and hostilities towards other
nations should be handled with more care and sensitivity, to
avoid reinforcing consumer resentment and inviting a
possible backlash in future. Earlier research has shown that
a technically superior product cannot compensate for strong
emotions like animosity (Ang et al., 2004; Bahaee and Pisani,
2009; Klein et al., 1998; Nijssen and Douglas, 2004; Rose
et al., 2008). Major US fast-food restaurants with global
brands have been able to ignore their home countrys
political actions and this may be less true in future especially,
when levels of animosity towards US increases.
The
marketing
managers
of these restaurant chains must
constantly monitor the mood of the consumers across
Malaysia. If there is an indication of heightened
animosity levels, these US companies must take steps to
alleviate the levels and ameliorate the worsening situation.

Conclusions, limitations and directions for future


research
This study has examined the role of animosity, religiosity and
ethnocentric tendencies of Malaysian consumers in
influencing the purchase of US products. Our findings
reveal that:
.
Malaysian consumers are moderate and do not have high
levels of animosity towards US products;
.
religiosity and ethnocentric tendencies of consumers
positively influence animosity;
.
ethnocentric tendencies of consumers affect product
judgment;
.
animosity and ethnocentric tendencies influence purchase
behavior of consumers;
.
eligiosity affects purchase action through animosity; and
.
religiosity influences product judgment of consumers
through their ethnocentric tendencies.
Even though, Malaysia is a progressive country, marketing
managers of US fast food restaurants must be cognizant of
changing moods of Malaysian consumers because of US
policies and actions across Asia and Middle-East.
This study is not without limitations. First, the study
addressed only a low involvement
product, fast-food
restaurants. Future studies
can accommodate high
involvement products such as US cars to see the combined
effect of religiosity, animosity and ethnocentric tendencies on
purchase behavior. Second, this research is based on a crosssectional study. A longitudinal study can better establish cause
and effect relationships between the constructs. Third,
additional sample size to include consumers from different
regions of Malaysia can give a better understanding of
Malaysian society as a whole; and future studies can expand
the scope of the research by including sample elements from
various parts of Malaysia.

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Further Reading
Ahmed, Z.U., Johnson, J.P., Yang, X. and Fatt, C.K. (2004),
Does country of origin matter
for low-involvement
products?, International Marketing Review, Vol. 21 No. 1,
pp. 102-120.
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Appendix
Table AI Items in the questionnaire
No.

Items

Source

Religiosity
1
I go to mosque/church/temple/place of worship regularly
2
Spiritual values are more important than material things
3
If Malaysia were more religious, this would be a better country
4
I consider myself to be very religious

(Wilkes
(Wilkes
(Wilkes
(Wilkes

et
et
et
et

Animosity
1
I feel angry towards US involvement in the war against other countries
2
I can still get angry over the US role in the other countries
3
I will never forgive the US for occupying and killing the civilians in other countries
4
US are liable for the damage caused by the bombardment of other countries
5
I will never forgive the US for bombing of other countries
6
When doing business with the US one should be careful
7
US companies are not a reliable trading partners
8
US wants to gain economic power over Malaysia
9
US companies often outsmart Malaysian companies in business deals
10
US have too much influence on the Malaysians and their countries economy
11
US companies are treating Malaysian consumers unfairly

(Nijssen
(Nijssen
(Nijssen
(Nijssen
(Nijssen
(Nijssen
(Nijssen
(Nijssen
(Nijssen
(Nijssen
(Nijssen

and Douglas,
and Douglas,
and Douglas,
and Douglas,
and Douglas,
and Douglas,
and Douglas,
and Douglas,
and Douglas,
and Douglas,
and Douglas,

Ethnocentrism
1
Malaysian consumers should always buy Malaysian made products instead of imports
2
Only those products that are unavailable in Malaysia should be imported
3
Buy Malaysian-made products. Keep Malaysians working
4
Malaysian products, first, last and foremost
5
Purchasing foreign-made products is un-Malaysians
6
It is not right to purchase foreign products
7
A real Malaysian should always buy Malaysian-made products
8
We should purchase products produced in Malaysia instead of letting other countries get rich off us
9
It is always best to purchase Malaysian products
10
There should be very little trading or purchasing of goods from other countries unless out of necessity
11
Malaysians should not buy foreign products, because this hurts Malaysian business and causes unemployment
12
Curbs should be put on all products
13
It may cost me in the long run but I prefer to support Malaysian products.
14
Foreigners should not be allowed to put their products on our markets
15
Foreign products should be taxed heavily to reduce their entry to the Malaysian market
16
We should buy from foreign countries only those products that we cannot obtain within our own country
17
Malaysian consumers who purchase products made in other countries are responsible for putting their fellow
Malaysians out of work
Product judgment
1
Products made by US fast-food restaurants are generally very well suited to needs of Malaysian consumers
2
The suitability of products made by US fast-food restaurants to the Malaysian consumers seems to have improved
over the past several years
Products made by US fast-food restaurants occupy very strong competitive position in comparison to the products
3
of other countries
4
Products made by US fast-food restaurants are carefully produced and have a fine taste
5
Product made by US fast-food restaurants are generally of a lower quality than similar products available from
other countries
Over the past several years, the quality of most products made by US fast-food restaurants seem to have
6
improved
Products made by US fast-food restaurants show very high degree of food technological advancement
7
8
Products made by US fast-food restaurants are produced by firms that are more concerned with the outward
appearance of the products than with the food quality
Products made by US fast-food restaurants seem to be more in the nature of luxury items than necessary items
9
Purchase
1
2
3
4
5

action
I chose US fast-food restaurants when similar foreign restaurants were available
I bought from US fast-food restaurant when a better quality foreign restaurant were available
I bought from US fast-food restaurants even though cheaper foreign fast-food restaurants were available
I explicitly recommended to someone else that he/she purchases only from US fast-food restaurants
I criticized someone I know for buying from foreign fast-food restaurant

(Shimp
(Shimp
(Shimp
(Shimp
(Shimp
(Shimp
(Shimp
(Shimp
(Shimp
(Shimp
(Shimp
(Shimp
(Shimp
(Shimp
(Shimp
(Shimp
(Shimp

al., 1986)
al., 1986)
al., 1986)
al., 1986)

and Sharma,
and Sharma,
and Sharma,
and Sharma,
and Sharma,
and Sharma,
and Sharma,
and Sharma,
and Sharma,
and Sharma,
and Sharma,
and Sharma,
and Sharma,
and Sharma,
and Sharma,
and Sharma,
and Sharma,

2004)
2004)
2004)
2004)
2004)
2004)
2004)
2004)
2004)
2004)
2004)

1987)
1987)
1987)
1987)
1987)
1987)
1987)
1987)
1987)
1987)
1987)
1987)
1987)
1987)
1987)
1987)
1987)

(Darling and Arnold, 1988)


(Darling and Arnold, 1988)
(Darling and Arnold, 1988)
(Darling and Arnold, 1988)
(Darling and Arnold, 1988)
(Darling and Arnold, 1988)
(Darling and Arnold, 1988)
(Darling and Arnold, 1988)
(Darling and Arnold, 1988)
(Pullman
(Pullman
(Pullman
(Pullman
(Pullman

et
et
et
et
et

al., 1997)
al., 1997)
al., 1997)
al., 1997)
al., 1997)

About the authors


Zafar U. Ahmed is a Professor of Marketing at Graduate
School of Management, Universiti Putra Malaysia. He has a
PhD in Marketing from Utah State University. He has
published in many journals of international repute.
Rosdin Anang has an MBA from Universiti Malaya.
Professor Nor Othman is based at the Department of
Marketing and Information Systems,University of Malaya,
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Murali Sambasivan is a Professor of Management Science
at Graduate School of Management, Universiti Putra
Malaysia. He has a PhD in Management Science from
University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, USA. He has published
widely in many international journals. Murali Sambasivan is
the corresponding author and can be contacted at:
sambasivan@hotmail.com

Executive summary and implications for


managers and executives
This summary has been provided to allow managers and
executives a rapid appreciation of the content of this article.
Those with a particular interest in the topic covered may then
read the article in toto to take advantage of the more
comprehensive description of the research undertaken and its
results to get the full benefits of the material present.
In the late 1990s, in a row over what was considered an
illegal ban on British meat by the French, British consumers
retaliated by boycotting French goods. Years later some British
people will still choose a bottle of Australian Merlot over a
French offering, or a Honda, Toyota or Ford rather than a
Citroen or Peugeot. Such unofficial trade wars might not
worry manufacturers and suppliers on either side of the
English Channel that much, but there are more serious
and far-reaching
threats
to businesses stemming from
peoples strongly-held (yet sometimes
misinformed or
misguided) beliefs.
The policies of the US across the Middle-East and
Afghanistan have been the subject of criticism in many
predominantly-Muslim countries and religious groups in
these countries have urged consumers not to patronize US
products and services. According to some research the spread
of anti-US feeling in the Islamic world is not just a precursor
of terrorism but of business boycotts. Consumers tend to
make rational choices about products by comparing and
contrasting various attributes not least quality and price
but emotions can also play a major role in the decision
whether or not to purchase foreign products.
While a persons religious beliefs and feelings of
animosity can affect a persons purchase decisions, so too can
their ethnocentricity in other words, people with strong
ethnocentric tendencies tend to have negative views
about foreign products and therefore do not favor buying
them.
In To purchase or not to purchase US products: role of
religiosity, animosity, and ethno-centrism among Malaysian
consumers Professor Zafar Ahmed et al. focus on US-based
fast-food restaurants (such as KFC, McDonald, Burger King,
Pizza Hut and Starbucks) which have a significant presence in
Malaysia, one of the fastest-developing and progressive
countries in South-East Asia. It is a multi-cultural country
with three major ethnic groups: Malays, Chinese and Indians.
About 60 percent of the citizens are Muslims, 30 percent
Chinese and 10 percent Indians and others and Islam is the
official religion. This diversity is unique to Malaysia when
compared with other Islamic countries. Earlier studies in

conservative Islamic countries like Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia,


Morocco, and Jordan have shown significant animosity towards
US products and services.
So are US products boycotted by certain consumers in
a progressive Islamic country like Malaysia? How do
animosity, religiosity, and ethnocentrism interact with each
other and influence Malaysian consumers product judgment
and purchase behavior? In fact Malaysian consumers are
moderate in their emotions, attitudes and behavior and
therefore they do not favor a complete boycott of US
products.
This study has revealed three paths that greatly influence
the purchase of US products by Malaysian consumers:
1 Religiosity animosity purchase behavior.
2 Religiosity ethnocentrism animosity purchase
behavior.
3 Religiosity ethnocentrism product judgment
purchase behavior.
An analysis of the three paths indicates the following roles:
.
religiosity plays a significant role in influencing
animosity
levels and ethnocentric tendencies of consumers and
between the two, religiosity influences ethnocentric
tendencies more;
.
ethnocentric tendencies plays a significant role in
influencing animosity and product judgment and between
the two, ethnocentric tendencies influence
animosity
more;
.
ethnocentric tendencies and religiosity play a significant
role in influencing animosity and between the two,
ethnocentric tendencies influence more; and
.
animosity and product judgment play a significant role in
influencing purchase behavior and between the two,
product judgment influences more.
The
results
show that
animosity
mediates
the
relationship between religiosity and purchase action and
ethnocentrism mediates the relationship between religiosity
and product judgment. What are the implications? Research
that studies the purchase behavior of consumers toward
foreign products especially, under conditions of animosity,
must include the three constructs: animosity, religiosity and
ethnocentric tendencies. The combined effects can be vital
in explaining consumers purchase behavior. This research has
shown that an increase in animosity levels is compounded by
the influences of religiosity and ethnocentric tendencies.
Negative reactions to US policies across Asia and Middle
East may not affect US products in the short term but over the
long term consumer animosity of consumers may become
stable animosity. It may be worse if the consuming nations
have better alternatives to the US products. Animosity levels
and hostilities will lower the judgment of US products and,
therefore,
reduce consumers
purchase
actions.
Any
provocation and hostilities towards other nations should be
handled with care and sensitivity to avoid reinforcing consumer
resentment and inviting a possible backlash. Earlier research
has shown that a technically
superior product cannot
compensate for strong emotions like animosity.
Major US fast-food restaurants with global brands have been
able to ignore their home countrys political actions but this
may be less true in the future. Marketing managers of
these restaurant chains must constantly monitor the mood
of the consumers across Malaysia.
If there
is an
indication of heightened animosity levels, the companies must
take steps ameliorate the worsening situation.
(A precis of the article To purchase or not to purchase US
products: role of religiosity, animosity, and ethno-centrism among
Malaysian consumers, Supplied by Marketing Consultants for
Emerald.)