Deferred Judgment in Foreign Policy Opinion: The Impact of Cost Procrastination on Audience Costs
54 Pages Posted: 10 Mar 2016 Last revised: 10 May 2017
Date Written: May 1, 2017
This paper demonstrates that survey experimental respondents tend not to consider costs in a foreign policy context, and contends that this weakens external validity for survey experimental designs that could theoretically involve cost-thinking in the analogous real world situation. Inspired by the apparently abrupt change in 2013 of public opinion on US policy towards the Syrian civil war, I replicate a common experimental test of opinion on military intervention. I show that asking subjects about their expectations of American casualties drastically lowers disapproval of empty threats and increases disapproval of intervention, using survey methodological research across several disciplines to explain way. I show experimentally that survey respondents responding to hypothetical situations tend not to consider relevant costs unless prompted to do so, and I demonstrate that this effect is of greater concern with costs than with the theoretically important concern of concern for international reputation. From this, I make a few recommendations for survey experimental research moving forward.
Keywords: audience cost, survey experiments, survey hypotheticals, external validity, democratic peace, international relations
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation