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Cognitive Shortcuts and Public Support for Intervention

Cognitive Shortcuts and Public Support for Intervention Scholars of public opinion on military intervention agree that survey respondents make judgments from limited information. Yet researchers still question whether ordinary Americans reflect elite attitudes or instead reach their own “pretty prudent” conclusions from the stated principal policy objective (PPO). This article adjudicates the debate while incorporating lessons from the study of bounded rationality. Evidence comes from an original data set of aggregate US public opinion, covering 1,080 nationally representative survey items about launching operations, across thirty-five countries, during 1981 to 2016. Tests show that PPO matters: pursuing “internal policy change” is less popular than restraining international aggression. However, language reflecting White House cues and one prominent cognitive shortcut (the “availability heuristic”) statistically and substantively outperforms PPO at predicting intervention support. The results indicate that when ordinary Americans are polled about using force against salient foes (Saddam Hussein, al-Qaeda, Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), elements of bounded rationality can overtake the prudence expressed toward less vivid problems. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Conflict Resolution SAGE

Cognitive Shortcuts and Public Support for Intervention

Journal of Conflict Resolution , Volume 64 (2-3): 29 – Feb 1, 2020

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References (105)

Publisher
SAGE
Copyright
© The Author(s) 2019
ISSN
0022-0027
eISSN
1552-8766
DOI
10.1177/0022002719854210
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Scholars of public opinion on military intervention agree that survey respondents make judgments from limited information. Yet researchers still question whether ordinary Americans reflect elite attitudes or instead reach their own “pretty prudent” conclusions from the stated principal policy objective (PPO). This article adjudicates the debate while incorporating lessons from the study of bounded rationality. Evidence comes from an original data set of aggregate US public opinion, covering 1,080 nationally representative survey items about launching operations, across thirty-five countries, during 1981 to 2016. Tests show that PPO matters: pursuing “internal policy change” is less popular than restraining international aggression. However, language reflecting White House cues and one prominent cognitive shortcut (the “availability heuristic”) statistically and substantively outperforms PPO at predicting intervention support. The results indicate that when ordinary Americans are polled about using force against salient foes (Saddam Hussein, al-Qaeda, Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), elements of bounded rationality can overtake the prudence expressed toward less vivid problems.

Journal

Journal of Conflict ResolutionSAGE

Published: Feb 1, 2020

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