A Preference for War: How Fairness and Rhetoric Influence Leadership Incentives in Crises

57 Pages Posted: 8 Aug 2013  

Matthew Gottfried

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Political Science

Robert Trager

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

Date Written: 2013

Abstract

We conduct a survey experiment to examine the effects of international compromise on presidential approval and to investigate the role of foreign government rhetoric in shaping the political incentives of leaders. We find that if leaders prefer to maximize voter approval, their preferences over disputed goods are not well represented by increasing, risk-averse utility functions. We also show that aggressive rhetoric on the part of foreign leaders increases the expected utility of war, decreases the value of substantial compromise, and provides leaders with a powerful incentive to fight harder. Overall, the findings suggest a contradiction between two commonly made assumptions: that leaders seek to maximize their chances of election and that leader preferences can be represented by increasing, risk-averse utility functions defined over fractions of some objective good. The rhetorical framing of disputes during the conflict process may beat least as important as material factors in understanding why some disputes result in war.

Keywords: Democracy and Conflict, Conflict Dynamics, Leader Preferences, Rhetoric, War, Survey Experiment, Public Opinion, Fairness

Suggested Citation

Gottfried, Matthew and Trager, Robert, A Preference for War: How Fairness and Rhetoric Influence Leadership Incentives in Crises (2013). APSA 2013 Annual Meeting Paper; American Political Science Association 2013 Annual Meeting. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2300195

Matthew Gottfried (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Political Science ( email )

Loas Angeles, CA
United States

Robert Trager

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) ( email )

405 Hilgard Avenue
Box 951361
Los Angeles, CA 90095
United States

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