Download this Paper Open PDF in Browser

Democratic Peace or Clash of Civilisations? Target States and Support for War in Britain and the USA

30 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2010  

Robert Johns

University of Strathclyde

Graeme Davies

University of Leeds

Date Written: 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.

Keywords: support for war, democratic peace, religion, Islamophobia

Suggested Citation

Johns, Robert and Davies, Graeme, Democratic Peace or Clash of Civilisations? Target States and Support for War in Britain and the USA (August 28, 2010). Available at SSRN: or

Robert Johns (Contact Author)

University of Strathclyde ( email )

Glasgow G1 1XU
United Kingdom

Graeme Davies

University of Leeds ( email )

Leeds, LS2 9JT
United Kingdom

Paper statistics

Abstract Views