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The Casualty GapThe Causes and Consequences of American Wartime Inequalities$
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Douglas Kriner and Francis Shen

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195390964

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195390964.001.0001

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Political Ramifications of the Iraq Casualty Gap

Political Ramifications of the Iraq Casualty Gap

(p.161) 7 Political Ramifications of the Iraq Casualty Gap
The Casualty Gap

Douglas L. Kriner (Contributor Webpage)

Francis X. Shen (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Combining individual-level survey data with state and county electoral returns, this chapter empirically investigates whether the relationships between local casualties, public opinion, and voting behavior in Iraq parallel those observed during the Vietnam era. The data reveal that some of these relationships in the contemporary conflict are dramatically different from those observed in Vietnam, while others remain eerily similar. Americans' differential exposure to casualties continues to play a significant role in influencing support for the war and for the political leaders charged with directing it. At their core, the results of the analysis of Iraq strongly reaffirm that the casualty gap has critically important political ramifications for American governance. Public opinion turns increasingly against the war when citizens experience the costs of war first-hand through casualties from their local community. Because high casualty-rate communities historically tend to have lower levels of income and education, and their residents are less engaged with politics than their peers from low casualty-rate communities, the dampening effect of casualties on hawkish military policies is weaker in practice than conventional wisdom suggests.

Keywords:   war casualties, casualty gap, public opinion, voting behavior, War in Iraq

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