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Civilian casualties and public support for military action: Experimental evidence

Johns, Robert and Davies, Graeme AM (2019) 'Civilian casualties and public support for military action: Experimental evidence.' Journal of Conflict Resolution, 63 (1). pp. 251-281. ISSN 0022-0027

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In contrast to the expansive literature on military casualties and support for war, we know very little about public reactions to foreign civilian casualties. This article, based on representative sample surveys in the US and Britain, reports four survey experiments weaving information about civilian casualties into vignettes about Western military action. These produce consistent evidence of civilian casualty aversion: where death tolls were higher, support for force was invariably and significantly lower. Casualty effects were moderate in size but robust across our two cases and across different scenarios. They were also strikingly resistant to moderation by other factors manipulated in the experiments, such as the framing of casualties or their religious affiliation. The importance of numbers over even strongly humanizing frames points towards a utilitarian rather than a social-psychological model of casualty aversion. Either way, civilian casualties deserve a more prominent place in the literature on public support for war.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: civilian casualties; domestic politics; military intervention; use of force
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences
Faculty of Social Sciences > Government, Department of
SWORD Depositor: Elements
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 22 Aug 2017 09:24
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2022 13:41

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