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Wars, presidents and popularity: The political cost(s) of war re-examined

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  • Geys, Benny

Abstract

Extensive research demonstrates that war casualties depress incumbent popularity. The present study argues that analyses of the political costs of warfare should also account for the financial toll of wars since a) financial costs of wars are substantial, b) these costs are publicly observed and understood and c) fiscal policy affects incumbents' approval ratings. Empirical evidence based on US data for the 1948-2008 period supports this theoretical claim: pecuniary costs of warfare either directly affect presidential popularity (e.g., in the Korean War) or their inclusion affects the predicted political cost of war casualties (e.g., in the Korean and Iraq/Afghanistan Wars). Interestingly, the adverse effect of war-spending is strongest under favourable economic conditions (i.e. low unemployment). -- Umfangreiche Forschungen zeigen, dass Kriegsopfer der Popularität des Amtsinhabers schaden. Die vorliegende Studie liefert Argumente dafür, dass Analysen der politischen Kosten der Kriegsführung in die Berechnung der finanziellen Kriegsausgaben miteinbezogen werden sollten, da a) die finanziellen Kosten von Kriegen beträchtlich sind, b) diese Kosten von der Öffentlichkeit wahrgenommen und verstanden werden, c) Fiskalpolitik die Umfragewerte des Amtsinhabers beeinflusst. Basierend auf US-Daten über den Zeitraum 1948-2008 wird dieser theoretische Anspruch empirisch unterstützt: pekuniäre Kosten der Kriegsführung haben entweder direkt eine Auswirkung auf die Popularität des Präsidenten (z. B. Koreakrieg) oder deren Einbeziehung beeinflusst die vorhergesagten politischen Kosten durch Kriegsopfer (z. B. Korea- und Irak/-Afghanistankrieg). Interessanterweise sind die negativen Auswirkungen der Kriegsausgaben am stärksten, wenn die wirtschaftlichen Bedingungen günstig (d.h. niedrige Arbeitslosigkeit) sind.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB) in its series Discussion Papers, Research Professorship & Project "The Future of Fiscal Federalism" with number SP II 2009-11.

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Date of creation: 2009
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Handle: RePEc:zbw:wzbfff:spii200911

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Keywords: Presidential approval; War; Casualties; Military spending;

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  1. Pagan, Adrian, 1984. "Econometric Issues in the Analysis of Regressions with Generated Regressors," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 25(1), pages 221-47, February.
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  9. Geys, Benny & Vermeir, Jan, 2007. "Taxation and presidential approval: separate effects from tax burden and tax structure turbulence," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Market Processes and Governance SP II 2007-09, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
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Cited by:
  1. Soeren Enkelmann & Michael Berlemann, 2013. "The Economic Determinants of U.S. Presidential Approval - A Survey," Working Paper Series in Economics 272, University of Lüneburg, Institute of Economics.

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