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War casualties and US presidential popularity: A comparison of the Korean, Vietnam and Iraq war


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  • Geys, Benny


Conventional wisdom holds that war casualties depress incumbent popularity. We argue that the strength and even the direction of these effects is inherently context-dependent because the perception of casualties varies over time and space, affected by historical developments. While intuitive, this proposition has as yet not been directly addressed due to a lack of explicitly comparative analyses. Investigating US presidential popularity over the period 1948-2006, the present paper illustrates that intensity and occurrence of casualty effects on presidential popularity varies significantly across the three considered military conflicts (i.e. Korea, Vietnam, Iraq). Moreover, these differences can be credibly linked to historical developments. -- Nach gängiger Meinung verringern Kriegsopfer die Beliebtheit des Amtsinhabers. Wir behaupten, dass die Stärke und sogar die Richtung dieser Effekte an sich kontextabhängig ist, denn Kriegsschäden und -opfer werden über die Zeit und den Raum hinweg unterschiedlich wahrgenommen und ist beeinflusst durch geschichtliche Entwicklungen. Obwohl diese Aussage intuitiv ist, wurde sie bisher noch nicht direkt thematisiert, da es an explizit vergleichenden Analysen mangelte. Der vorliegende Artikel untersucht die Popularität der USPräsidenten über den Zeitraum 1948 bis 2006 und zeigt, dass die Intensität und Häufigkeit der Auswirkungen von Opfer fordernden Zwischenfällen auf die Beliebtheit des Präsidenten signifikant zwischen den drei betrachteten militärischen Konflikten (d.h. Korea, Vietnam, Irak) variiert. Zudem können solche Unterschiede glaubwürdig mit geschichtlichen Entwicklungen in Verbindung gebracht werden.

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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 2010-05.

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Date of creation: 2010
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Handle: RePEc:zbw:wzbfff:spii201005

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Keywords: Presidential approval; popularity function; war; casualties; historical institutionalism;


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  1. Johan P. Olsen, 2005. "Maybe it is time to rediscover bureaucracy?," ARENA Working Papers 10, ARENA.
  2. Benny Geys & Jan Vermeir, 2008. "Taxation and presidential approval: separate effects from tax burden and tax structure turbulence?," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 135(3), pages 301-317, June.
  3. Colaresi, Michael, 2007. "The Benefit of the Doubt: Testing an Informational Theory of the Rally Effect," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 61(01), pages 99-143, January.
  4. John Elder & Peter E. Kennedy, 2001. "Testing for Unit Roots: What Should Students Be Taught?," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 32(2), pages 137-146, January.
  5. Schwert, G William, 1989. "Tests for Unit Roots: A Monte Carlo Investigation," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 7(2), pages 147-59, April.
  6. Johannes Münster, 2007. "Simultaneous inter- and intra-group conflicts," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 32(2), pages 333-352, August.
  7. Hall, Alastair R, 1994. "Testing for a Unit Root in Time Series with Pretest Data-Based Model Selection," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 12(4), pages 461-70, October.
  8. Fox, Gerald & Phillips, Earl N., 2003. "Interrelationship between presidential approval, presidential votes and macroeconomic performance, 1948-2000," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 25(3), pages 411-424, September.
  9. Geys, Benny & Vermeir, Jan, 2008. "The political cost of taxation: new evidence from German popularity ratings," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Market Processes and Governance SP II 2008-06, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
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