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Public Opinion and the Democratic Peace




One of the most striking findings in political science is the democratic peace: the absence of war between democracies. Some authors attempt to explain this phenomenon by highlighting the role of public opinion. They observe that democratic leaders are beholden to voters and argue that voters oppose war because of its human and financial costs. This logic predicts that democracies should behave peacefully in general, but history shows that democracies avoid war primarily in their relations with other democracies. In this article we investigate not whether democratic publics are averse to war in general, but whether they are especially reluctant to fight other democracies. We embedded experiments in public opinion polls in the United States and the United Kingdom and found that individuals are substantially less supportive of military strikes against democracies than against otherwise identical autocracies. Moreover, our experiments suggest that shared democracy pacifies the public primarily by changing perceptions of threat and morality, not by raising expectations of costs or failure. These findings shed light on a debate of enduring importance to scholars and policy makers.

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  • Tomz, Michael R. & Weeks, Jessica L. P., 2013. "Public Opinion and the Democratic Peace," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 107(4), pages 849-865, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:apsrev:v:107:y:2013:i:04:p:849-865_00

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    Cited by:

    1. Seiki Tanaka, 2016. "The microfoundations of territorial disputes: Evidence from a survey experiment in Japan," Conflict Management and Peace Science, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 33(5), pages 516-538, November.
    2. Bernauer, Thomas & Spilker, Gabriele & Umaña, Víctor, 2014. "Different countries same partners: Experimental Evidence on PTA Partner Country Choice from Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Vietnam," Papers 739, World Trade Institute.
    3. Lala Muradova & Ross James Gildea, 2021. "Oil wealth and US public support for war," Conflict Management and Peace Science, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 38(1), pages 3-19, January.
    4. Lopez, Anthony C. & Johnson, Dominic D.P., 2020. "The determinants of war in international relations," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 178(C), pages 983-997.
    5. Katri Sieberg & David Clark & Charles A. Holt & Timothy Nordstrom & William Reed, 2013. "An Experimental Analysis of Asymmetric Power in Conflict Bargaining," Games, MDPI, vol. 4(3), pages 1-23, August.
    6. McCaskey Kelly & Rainey Carlisle, 2015. "Substantive Importance and the Veil of Statistical Significance," Statistics, Politics and Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 6(1-2), pages 77-96, December.
    7. Mechtenberg, Lydia & Perino, Grischa & Treich, Nicolas & Tyran, Jean-Robert & Wang, Stephanie W., 2024. "Self-signaling in voting," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 231(C).
    8. Robert Gampfer, 2016. "Minilateralism or the UNFCCC? The Political Feasibility of Climate Clubs," Global Environmental Politics, MIT Press, vol. 16(3), pages 62-88, August.
    9. Kiratli, Osman Sabri, 2023. "Policy Objective of Military Intervention and Public Attitudes: A Conjoint Experiment from US and Turkey," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, issue Latest Ar.
    10. James Lee Ray & Allan Dafoe, 2018. "Democratic peace versus contractualism," Conflict Management and Peace Science, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 35(2), pages 193-203, March.
    11. Aköz, Kemal Kivanç & Barber IV, Benjamin & Jensen, Jeffrey & Zenker, Christina, 2018. "Revisiting the democracy-private investment nexus: Does inequality matter?," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(4), pages 1215-1233.
    12. Justwan Florian & Fisher Sarah K., 2017. "International Adjudication and Public Opinion in Territorial Disputes: Evidence from a Survey Experiment Using Amazon Mechanical Turk," Peace Economics, Peace Science, and Public Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 23(3), pages 1-18, August.
    13. Rudolph, Lukas & Freitag, Markus & Thurner, Paul, 2021. "The Comparative Legitimacy of Arms Exports - A Conjoint Experiment in Germany and France," SocArXiv r73pv, Center for Open Science.
    14. Bansal, Vaiddehi & Wallach, Jessica & Lira Brandão, Juliana & Lord, Sarah & Taha, Ninar & Akoglu, Tulay & Kiss, Ligia & Zimmerman, Cathy, 2023. "An intervention-focused review of modern slave labor in Brazil’s mining sector," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 171(C).
    15. Friedman, Jeffrey A. & Lerner, Jennifer S. & Zeckhauser, Richard, 2015. "How Quantifying Probability Assessments Influences Analysis and Decision Making: Experimental Evidence from National Security Professionals," Working Paper Series 16-016, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    16. Daniel L. Nielson & Susan D. Hyde & Judith Kelley, 2019. "The elusive sources of legitimacy beliefs: Civil society views of international election observers," The Review of International Organizations, Springer, vol. 14(4), pages 685-715, December.
    17. Xiaojun Li & Dingding Chen, 2021. "Public opinion, international reputation, and audience costs in an authoritarian regime," Conflict Management and Peace Science, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 38(5), pages 543-560, September.
    18. Lars Berger, 2019. "Democratic values and the microfoundations of Arab support for peace with Israel," Conflict Management and Peace Science, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 36(3), pages 270-290, May.
    19. Joshua D. Kertzer, 2017. "Microfoundations in international relations," Conflict Management and Peace Science, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 34(1), pages 81-97, January.
    20. Jonathan N Markowitz & Christopher J Fariss, 2018. "Power, proximity, and democracy," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 55(1), pages 78-93, January.

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