Losing on the Home Front? Battlefield Casualties, Media, and Public Support for Foreign Interventions

28 Pages Posted: 29 Apr 2021 Last revised: 1 May 2021

See all articles by Thiemo Fetzer

Thiemo Fetzer

University of Warwick

Pedro CL Souza

University of Warwick

Oliver Vanden Eynde

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE)

Austin L. Wright

University of Chicago - Harris School of Public Policy

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: April 30, 2021

Abstract

We study the impact of battlefield casualties and media coverage on public demand for war termination. To identify the effect of troop fatalities, we leverage the otherwise exogenous timing of survey collection across 26218 respondents from eight members of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. Quasi-experimental evidence demonstrates that fatalities increase coverage of the Afghan conflict and public demand for withdrawal. Evidence from a survey experiment replicates the main results. To estimate the media mechanism, we leverage a news pressure design and find that major sporting matches occurring around the time of battlefield casualties drive down subsequent coverage and significantly weaken the effect of casualties on support for war termination. These results highlight the crucial role that media play in shaping public support for foreign military interventions.

Keywords: conflict, public opinion, political economy, Afghanistan, NATO

JEL Classification: Q33, O13, N52, R11, L71

Suggested Citation

Fetzer, Thiemo and Souza, Pedro CL and Vanden Eynde, Oliver and Wright, Austin L., Losing on the Home Front? Battlefield Casualties, Media, and Public Support for Foreign Interventions (April 30, 2021). University of Chicago, Becker Friedman Institute for Economics Working Paper No. 2021-52, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3836013 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3836013

Thiemo Fetzer

University of Warwick ( email )

Gibbet Hill Rd.
Coventry, West Midlands CV4 8UW
United Kingdom

Pedro CL Souza

University of Warwick ( email )

Gibbet Hill Rd.
Coventry, West Midlands CV4 8UW
United Kingdom

Oliver Vanden Eynde

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) ( email )

Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

Austin L. Wright (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Harris School of Public Policy ( email )

1307 E 60th St
Chicago, IL IL 60637
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.austinlwright.com

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