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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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The Casualty Gap and Civic Engagement

The Casualty Gap and Civic Engagement

(p.191) 8 The Casualty Gap and Civic Engagement
The Casualty Gap

Douglas L. Kriner (Contributor Webpage)

Francis X. Shen (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Through a series of empirical analyses of individual-level survey data from the National Election Study and the Social Capital Benchmark Survey, as well as analysis of aggregate electoral turnout data at the county level, this chapter examines the immediate and lasting effects of the considerable variance in communities' wartime experience in Vietnam, Korea, and World War II, on their residents' patterns of political engagement and participation. The analysis reveals very different dynamics in the wake of the three conflicts. Across the data sets, statistical models find that respondents from communities that suffered higher casualty rates in Vietnam and Korea reported lower levels of trust in government, interest in politics, and electoral and nonelectoral political participation than respondents with identical demographic characteristics from cities and towns that sustained lower casualty rates in these conflicts. By contrast, respondents from communities that endured the heaviest burdens in World War II were just as politically engaged as their peers, if not more so. However, while the conflicts in Vietnam and Korea may have fundamentally reshaped citizens' relationship with the federal government, citizens did not let their resentment toward government policies affect all of their participatory activities. More nuanced data from the Social Capital Benchmark Survey reveal that Vietnam casualty rates had no discernible impact on nonpolitical forms of civic engagement such as charitable giving, volunteering, and organizational activity.

Keywords:   National Election Study, Social Capital, public opinion, war casualties, civic engagement, Vietnam War, Korean War, World War II, casualty rates

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