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Wars, presidents and popularity: The political cost(s) of war re-examined

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  • Geys, Benny

Abstract

Extensive research demonstrates that war casualties depress incumbent popularity. The present study argues that analyses of the political costs of warfare should also account for the financial toll of wars since a) financial costs of wars are substantial, b) these costs are publicly observed and understood and c) fiscal policy affects incumbents' approval ratings. Empirical evidence based on US data for the 1948-2008 period supports this theoretical claim: pecuniary costs of warfare either directly affect presidential popularity (e.g., in the Korean War) or their inclusion affects the predicted political cost of war casualties (e.g., in the Korean and Iraq/Afghanistan Wars). Interestingly, the adverse effect of war-spending is strongest under favourable economic conditions (i.e. low unemployment).

Suggested Citation

  • Geys, Benny, 2009. "Wars, presidents and popularity: The political cost(s) of war re-examined," Discussion Papers, Research Professorship & Project "The Future of Fiscal Federalism" SP II 2009-11, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:wzbfff:spii200911
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    Cited by:

    1. Berlemann, Michael & Enkelmann, Sören, 2014. "The economic determinants of U.S. presidential approval: A survey," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 36(C), pages 41-54.

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