'Proxies' and the Public: Testing the Statist Bias in Public Support for Military Aid
66 Pages Posted: 12 Oct 2020
Date Written: October 9, 2020
Under what conditions do mass publics support military aid abroad? Specifically, does the American public support extending or ending military aid to a state’s military differently from extending or ending military aid to a non-state armed group? I propose that a statist bias underpins the American public’s attitudes on military aid. I argue that the public prefers the US government develop and maintain ties to state militaries over non-state armed groups and posit a number of instrumental assumptions about these actors that could drive this preference. Namely, because the public considers states more responsible, accountable, and capable actors than non-state armed groups, individuals are more likely to support providing state militaries than non-state armed groups with military aid, but also are more likely to oppose the removal of that aid from states while seeing aid to non-state armed actors as more expendable. I find support for this statist bias in two survey experiments on samples of the American public run in December 2019 and June 2020. A statist bias matters for a variety of dynamics in international security, from secrecy in foreign policy, to audience costs, to ways rival states might be constrained by their publics in competing with one another on the world stage.
Keywords: proxy, bias, military support, aid
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