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War and American Democracy


  • Timothy Y. C. Cotton

    (Department of Political Science, Yale University)


Most analyses of American elections have treated wars as special events, including them in the analysis, but seeking only to make conclusions specific to each war. This article examines the last five American wars statistically and historically, seeking to demonstrate that, in general, wars have caused elected leaders associated with American entry into battle to lose ground in wartime elections. Both the statistical results and the historical commentary support the central hypothesis and suggest some important related conclusions: Changes in short-run military outlays appear to be the most effective measure of war's impact on the nation; presidents have been more subject to the effects of war than have members of Congress; and wars have influenced postwar elections at least as much as elections during wartime.

Suggested Citation

  • Timothy Y. C. Cotton, 1986. "War and American Democracy," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 30(4), pages 616-635, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:jocore:v:30:y:1986:i:4:p:616-635

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    Cited by:

    1. Heckman, James J, 1995. "Lessons from the Bell Curve," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(5), pages 1091-1120, October.

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