NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 3, 2005

Americans support the global war on terror because they believe the United States has "important stakes" in the conflict, and will support other military actions overseas as well if they believe important stakes are involved, according to a RAND Corporation study.

The researchers examined key predictors of national support for U.S. military operations from Somalia to Iraq.

  • "The main implication for the Army," conclude the researchers, "is that Americans have proved themselves far more willing to use ground troops -- to put boots on the ground -- and to accept casualties in operations conducted under the global war on terror than in any of the military operations" during the 1990s.
  • Americans' opinions went on a war footing following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States, often matching levels of support for military action seen during World War II, according to the researchers who synthesized findings from about 100 public opinion surveys.

"The perceived importance of the stakes was the key belief predicting support for the operation," says RAND analyst Eric Larson, the report's lead author.

Other major factors influencing a person's likelihood of backing a military operation include: identifying with the same political party as the president of the United States, the occurrence of battle casualties, and beliefs about the prospects for an operation's success, according to the study.

The RAND analysis also shows that Americans weren't big fans of the peace missions conducted during the 1990s, and they wanted these missions completed with as little cost as possible.

Source: Eric V. Larson and Bogdan Savych, "American Public Support for U.S. Military Operations from Mogadishu to Baghdad," RAND Corporation, May 29, 2005.


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