Public Support for Military Interventions across Levels of Political Information and Phases of Intervention
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Scholars widely acknowledge that democratic political leaders seek public support for their policy endeavors, particularly when conducting costly policies as in the case of military interventions. A deeper understanding of the factors that affect public support for military interventions is crucial to explaining more definitively the determinants of foreign policy decisions regarding military interventions. However, most studies in this area of research examine the public as an undifferentiated mass that reacts uniformly to changes in the course of an intervention. In addition, scholars often overlook the varying dynamics of public support across different phases of a military intervention. Given these shortcomings in the literature, the objective of this dissertation is to examine the formation of public support as a function of political information levels and intervention stages. This dissertation is important in both methodological and theoretical terms. Methodologically, the major contribution of my dissertation is the adoption of a multimethod approach that is almost non-existent in this line of research. By bringing together a formal framework, experimentation, and statistical analyses of public opinion survey data, I develop a more refined theory and attain more robust empirical results. Theoretically, the study challenges the dominant mode of research on military interventions in which public opinion is treated as a homogenous mass. Specifically, I explore how major factors related to public support for military interventions (such as casualty rates) play different roles and weigh differently in their impact on the opinions of politically informed versus less informed individuals across stages of an intervention. The results of the experiments and survey data analyses demonstrate that politically informed individuals express less support for a military intervention at the starting (rally) phase of that intervention compared to the less informed. That said, as the intervention proceeds and casualties are incurred, support of politically uninformed individuals decreases at higher rates than does support of politically informed ones. In other words, politically informed individuals demonstrate more stable levels of support across intervention stages. In addition, both experimental and survey data analyses show that policy-specific information is generally a more influential factor on public support for military interventions compared to general political information.
Sirin Villalobos, Cigdem (2009). Public Support for Military Interventions across Levels of Political Information and Phases of Intervention. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from