DP16102 Losing on the Home Front? Battlefield Casualties, Media, and Public Support for Foreign Interventions

Author(s): Thiemo Fetzer, Pedro CL Souza, Oliver Vanden Eynde, Austin Wright
Publication Date: May 2021
Keyword(s): Afghanistan, conflict, NATO, political economy, Public Opinion
JEL(s): D72, D74, F51, F52, H56
Programme Areas: Public Economics, Development Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=16102

We study the impact of battlefield casualties and media coverage on public demand for war termination. Based on survey evidence from eight troop-sending NATO countries in the Afghanistan war, we find that fatalities increase public demand for withdrawal. Evidence from a survey experiment replicates these results. We leverage a news pressure design and find that major sporting matches occurring around the time of battlefield casualties (i) drive down subsequent press coverage, and (ii) significantly weaken the effect of casualties on support for war termination. These results highlight the important role that the media play in shaping public support for foreign military interventions.