Democratic Peace or Clash of Civilisations? Target States and Support for War in Britain and the USA
University of Strathclyde
University of Leeds
August 28, 2010
Research on public support for war has shown that citizens are responsive to the objectives of military action, the chances of success, the interests at stake and other strategic factors. Less attention has been paid to the nature of the target state: are some states just “the kind of countries that we should/should not be attacking”? In this comparative study we look at two features of the target state – regime type and dominant faith – in order to test whether the ‘democratic peace’ and the ‘clash of civilizations’ these are reflected in US and British public opinion on the use of force. The same survey experiment was administered over the internet to American and British samples. Our main results show little difference across the two cases: both publics were somewhat more inclined to use force against dictatorships than against democracies, and against mainly Islamic than against mainly Christian countries. The clash of civilizations seems to trump the democratic peace, with citizens in both countries readier to use force against Islamic democracies than Christian dictatorships. Religion played no moderating role in Britain: Christians and non-believers were alike readier to attack Islamic than Christian states. However, in the US, the dominant faith effect was driven entirely by Christians; it seems that secular Americans refuse to take part in any clash of civilizations. The results suggest that public judgements are driven more by international images and identities than by strategic calculations of threat.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 30
Keywords: support for war, democratic peace, religion, Islamophobia
Date posted: August 31, 2010