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Wars, presidents and popularity: The political cost(s) of war re-examined

Benny Geys

No SP II 2009-11, Discussion Papers, Research Professorship & Project "The Future of Fiscal Federalism" from WZB Berlin Social Science Center

Abstract: Extensive research demonstrates that war casualties depress incumbent popularity. The present study argues that analyses of the political costs of warfare should also account for the financial toll of wars since a) financial costs of wars are substantial, b) these costs are publicly observed and understood and c) fiscal policy affects incumbents' approval ratings. Empirical evidence based on US data for the 1948-2008 period supports this theoretical claim: pecuniary costs of warfare either directly affect presidential popularity (e.g., in the Korean War) or their inclusion affects the predicted political cost of war casualties (e.g., in the Korean and Iraq/Afghanistan Wars). Interestingly, the adverse effect of war-spending is strongest under favourable economic conditions (i.e. low unemployment).

Keywords: Presidential approval; War; Casualties; Military spending (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2009
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