Gender Difference in American Public Opinion on the Use of Military Force: Evidence from Before and after the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, 1980-2013

International Studies Quarterly. First published online: 5 February 2016

55 Pages Posted: 15 Aug 2014 Last revised: 8 Apr 2016

Date Written: June 12, 2014

Abstract

Recent scholarship indicates that gender is a strong correlate of Americans' attitudes toward the use of military force. However, most of the existing evidence is based on a limited number of military actions. The purpose of this paper is to address these gaps by analyzing 965 individual survey questions that query support for using US military force in twenty four historical episodes, beginning in 1982 with military aid to El Salvador and continuing through the recent wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. I conclude that gender difference is generalized over a large number of historical episodes and types of military action. Nonetheless, gender difference does vary substantially, and in many cases a substantial percentage of women supports the use of force. The difference between men and women varies most with the salience and level of violence, and women are more sensitive to humanitarian concerns. Women are more sensitive to casualties in many historical cases, but during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the casualty sensitivity of men gradually increased and the gender difference decreased. I argue that scholars should turn their attention to studying individual-level differences among men and women in support for using military force.

Keywords: gender, war, military force, national security, Iraq, Afghanistan, public opinion

Suggested Citation

Eichenberg, Richard C., Gender Difference in American Public Opinion on the Use of Military Force: Evidence from Before and after the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, 1980-2013 (June 12, 2014). International Studies Quarterly. First published online: 5 February 2016. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2480128 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2480128

Richard C. Eichenberg (Contact Author)

Tufts University ( email )

Medford, MA 02155
United States

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