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Performing on Cue? The Formation of Public Opinion Toward War


  • Christopher Gelpi

    (Duke University, Durham, NC, USA,


The public’s inability to gain direct personal experience or information about American military operations means that individuals must rely on cues to form opinions about war. But in an environment filled will potential cues, which ones do Americans tend to rely on when deciding whether to support an ongoing military operation? This experimental study uses two distinct cues within the context of a newspaper story about the Iraq War to test four theoretical models of the American public’s reliance on cues. The results provide fairly consistent support for the “surprising events†model of opinion formation, which suggests that individuals will attend to news events that conflict with their expectations in an effort to update their attitudes toward the war. These results also provide support for the cost/benefit perspective on the formation of public opinion toward war that underpins much of the literature on casualty tolerance during military conflicts.

Suggested Citation

  • Christopher Gelpi, 2010. "Performing on Cue? The Formation of Public Opinion Toward War," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 54(1), pages 88-116, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:jocore:v:54:y:2010:i:1:p:88-116

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    Cited by:

    1. Beth A. Simmons, 2015. "The Laws of War and Public Opinion: An Experimental Study," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 171(1), pages 202-207, March.
    2. Patrick Haack & Michael D. Pfarrer & Andreas Georg Scherer, 2014. "Legitimacy-as-Feeling: How Affect Leads to Vertical Legitimacy Spillovers in Transnational Governance," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 51(4), pages 634-666, June.

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    Iraq; war; American; public; opinion;


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