Natural Experiments of the Rally 'Round the Flag Effects Using Worldwide Surveys

Journal of Conflict Resolution, forthcoming

55 Pages Posted: 17 Aug 2022 Last revised: 18 Mar 2023

See all articles by Taejun Seo

Taejun Seo

Dartmouth College

Yusaku Horiuchi

Dartmouth College - Department of Government

Date Written: December 23, 2022


The "rally 'round the flag" effect---a short-term boost in a political leader's popularity during an interstate political dispute---was first proposed by Mueller (1970) more than half a century ago. However, there is no scholarly consensus on its empirical validity and the circumstances under which the effect becomes most prominent. In this paper, based on a natural experimental design, we analyze large-scale worldwide surveys of 34,118 responses and causally identify the effects of 46 militarized interstate disputes (MIDs) on the approval ratings of political leaders in 27 countries. We find that MIDs, on average, decrease public support for national leaders. However, the public backlash could be attenuated depending on theoretically relevant contexts. Our finding implies that political leaders cannot rely on MIDs for public support increases, as they are generally penalized for such decisions.

Keywords: militarized interstate disputes, global public opinion, diversionary theory of war, natural experiments

JEL Classification: H12, H56

Suggested Citation

Seo, Taejun and Horiuchi, Yusaku, Natural Experiments of the Rally 'Round the Flag Effects Using Worldwide Surveys (December 23, 2022). Journal of Conflict Resolution, forthcoming, Available at SSRN: or

Taejun Seo

Dartmouth College ( email )

Hanover, NH
United States

Yusaku Horiuchi (Contact Author)

Dartmouth College - Department of Government ( email )

204 Silsby Hall
HB 6108
Hanover, NH 03755
United States


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