Three essays on the American public's war support calculus: evidence from experiments
Oliver, Alexander James
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This dissertation consists of three essays on the American public's war calculus that hang together in two main ways. First, these essays all attempt to quantitatively measure how certain things about a mission abroad--including the positions of domestic and international elites on it, its American and enemy casualties, its chance of success and main objective, its dollar cost and duration, its location on the planet--causally impact the public's support at home. The first essay simultaneously measures the causal impacts of sixty features of a war, obtaining a rough outline of the public's calculus on war as a mathematical function. The second essay measures the causal impacts of accumulating American and insurgent body counts over time during a war, estimating their dynamic rate of change. And the third essay measures the causal impacts of domestic political elites during parallel real and hypothetical wars, discovering a new mechanism by which the public responds to their position-taking at home. But these measurements wouldn't be possible without the second way these three essays hang together: all of them employ the experimental method. These essays involve survey experiments that are atypical and nonstandard in the use of force literature. The first essay uses a conjoint experiment, which can powerfully estimate the causal impact of relatively many treatments with relatively few research subjects because of its efficiency. The second essay uses a panel experiment, which can estimate the cumulative causal impact of a dynamic treatments at many different points in time because of its sequential structure. And the third essay uses both real and hypothetical experiments, which can uncover how different contexts condition the estimates of treatment impacts.