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The effect of trust in government on rallies ’round the flag

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  • J Tyson Chatagnier


    (Department of Political Science, University of Rochester)

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    Previous research has shown that foreign policy crises can cause a ‘rally ’round the flag’ effect, boosting citizens’ approval of their leaders. While scholars agree on the effect’s existence, its magnitude and nature are less readily apparent. This article considers two factors that have been neglected in previous studies: the context in which a conflict occurs and the public’s level of trust in government. The theory presented here suggests that trust is not only an effect of a rally, but mediates the magnitude of the rally. It also proposes that the nature of the rally will be unaffected by whether the state is provoked by its opponent prior to crisis initiation. The resulting hypotheses are tested using aggregate US public opinion data around international crises, as well as individual-level data from the 1990–92 ANES panel regarding the Persian Gulf War. The analysis indicates that trust in government has a major influence on the size of a rally effect, especially at the individual level. However, trust matters more for those in the opposition than for those who have supported the government in the past. These results suggest implications for understanding public attitudes toward foreign policy and for the diversionary theory of war.

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    Article provided by Peace Research Institute Oslo in its journal Journal of Peace Research.

    Volume (Year): 49 (2012)
    Issue (Month): 5 (September)
    Pages: 631-645

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    Handle: RePEc:sae:joupea:v:49:y:2012:i:5:p:631-645
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