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

  • Geys, Benny

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).

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Paper provided by Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB) in its series Discussion Papers, Research Professorship & Project "The Future of Fiscal Federalism" with number SP II 2009-11.

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Date of creation: 2009
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Handle: RePEc:zbw:wzbfff:spii200911
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  1. Fox, Gerald & Phillips, Earl N., 2003. "Interrelationship between presidential approval, presidential votes and macroeconomic performance, 1948-2000," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 25(3), pages 411-424, September.
  2. Benny Geys & Jan Vermeir, 2008. "Taxation and presidential approval: separate effects from tax burden and tax structure turbulence?," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 135(3), pages 301-317, June.
  3. Colaresi, Michael, 2007. "The Benefit of the Doubt: Testing an Informational Theory of the Rally Effect," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 61(01), pages 99-143, January.
  4. Schwert, G William, 1989. "Tests for Unit Roots: A Monte Carlo Investigation," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 7(2), pages 147-59, April.
  5. James W. Hardin, 2002. "The robust variance estimator for two-stage models," Stata Journal, StataCorp LP, vol. 2(3), pages 253-266, August.
  6. Murphy, Kevin M & Topel, Robert H, 1985. "Estimation and Inference in Two-Step Econometric Models," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 3(4), pages 370-79, October.
  7. Peltzman, Sam, 1992. "Voters as Fiscal Conservatives," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(2), pages 327-61, May.
  8. Pagan, Adrian, 1984. "Econometric Issues in the Analysis of Regressions with Generated Regressors," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 25(1), pages 221-47, February.
  9. Arne Risa Hole, 2006. "Calculating Murphy-Topel variance estimates in Stata: A simplified procedure," Stata Journal, StataCorp LP, vol. 6(4), pages 521-529, December.
  10. Braumoeller, Bear F., 2004. "Hypothesis Testing and Multiplicative Interaction Terms," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 58(04), pages 807-820, October.
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