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War Voting


  • Laron K. Williams

    (Texas Tech University)

  • David J. Brulé

    (University of Tennessee)

  • Michael Koch

    (Texas A&M University)


This article explores the interactive effects of the economy and the use of force on incumbent parties’ electoral performance. Research on the diversionary use of force assumes that leaders (especially democratic leaders) use force abroad to bolster their domestic political fortunes during hard economic times. But other research suggests that crises either lead to removal from office or have no effect on incumbents’ political fortunes. Although a good deal of scholarship assesses the role of the economy on electoral outcomes, no research has explicitly examined the interactive effects between dispute involvement and the economy on leaders’ share of the vote. We argue that the salience of the economy conditions voters’ sensitivity to the costs of conflict, which reduces electoral support for incumbent parties engaging in dramatic foreign policy events. Moreover, we expect executives’ efforts to emphasize foreign policy during economic downturns to be met with electoral punishment as voters prefer to see leaders working on a remedial economic policy. To evaluate this argument, we examine incumbent parties’ vote shares in elections among nine advanced democracies from 1960 to 2000. Our results support the hypothesis that during economic downturns voters care more about domestic politics than foreign policy. Furthermore, our results have implications for the diversionary hypothesis, gambling for resurrection argument, the democratic peace, and economic voting research agendas.

Suggested Citation

  • Laron K. Williams & David J. Brulé & Michael Koch, 2010. "War Voting," Conflict Management and Peace Science, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 27(5), pages 442-460, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:compsc:v:27:y:2010:i:5:p:442-460

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