Military Losses and Public Support for Domestic Counterinsurgency

54 Pages Posted: 17 Mar 2019

Date Written: February 25, 2019


When does the public support domestic counterinsurgency? Do military casualties decrease support for fighting, as during overseas wars? I theorize conditions under which government losses move public opinion against continued counterinsurgency. These are features common to many civil wars: asymmetric combat, an isolated military theater, and socially marginalized insurgents. Evidence comes from a 2010 survey regarding war in southern Thailand. Combining information on the Royal Thai Army's draft system and deployments, I show that army fatalities from a respondent's area predict support for implementing southern autonomy as a means of ending insurgency. As a placebo comparison, I show that army fatalities in the southern campaign do not explain support for compromise in an unrelated conflict in Bangkok. Respondents' assessments of the toll of southern insurgency also predict support for autonomy. This is the first study to show military losses depress support for counterinsurgency in a contemporary civil war.

Keywords: Casualties, War Deaths, Public Support for War, Thailand, Military Affairs

Suggested Citation

Lacina, Bethany, Military Losses and Public Support for Domestic Counterinsurgency (February 25, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Bethany Lacina (Contact Author)

University of Rochester ( email )

300 Crittenden Blvd.
Rochester, NY 14627
United States

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