Rationally Impatient Citizens: Modeling Public Opinion Dynamics during War
51 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2014 Last revised: 26 Aug 2014
Date Written: August 20, 2014
A formal model of public opinion dynamics during asymmetric wars is presented. The model shows that the pattern usually observed - initial support for war that declines over time until it reaches a plateau - is expected from a rational citizenry. A number of behavioral and institutional hypotheses are derived from the model. In particular, citizens' expectation of the remaining duration of war increases as time elapses. Time itself is informative and will eventually trump other information. This hypothesis is tested using a survey experiment that verifies a substantive effect of time independent of the observed costs of war. In the model, democracies are expected to fight shorter asymmetric wars.
Keywords: Public opinion, foreign policy, formal models, war, international conflict
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