Death and Turnout: The Human Costs of War and Voter Participation in Democracies

Citation metadata

Date: Oct. 2016
From: American Journal of Political Science(Vol. 60, Issue 4)
Publisher: Wiley Subscription Services, Inc.
Document Type: Report
Length: 393 words

Document controls

Main content

Abstract :

Byline: Michael T. Koch, Stephen P. Nicholson Abstract War heightens public interest in politics, especially when human lives are lost. We examine whether, and how, combat casualties affect the decision to vote in established democracies. Drawing from social psychology research on mortality salience, we expect increasing casualties to increase the salience of death, information that moves people to defend their worldview, especially nationalistic and ideological values. By heightening the importance of values, we propose that combat casualties increase the benefits of voting. In particular, we expect the effect of combat casualties to be pronounced among the least politically engaged. Using both cross-national data of elections in 23 democracies over a 50-year period and survey data from the United States and United Kingdom during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, we found that mounting casualties increase turnout. Furthermore, as expected, we found the effect of casualties to be most pronounced among those least interested in politics. Biographical information: Michael T. Koch is Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Texas A&M University, 2010 Allen Building, 4348 TAMU, College Station, TX 77843-4348 (mtkoch@polisci.tamu.edu). Stephen P. Nicholson is Professor, Department of Political Science, University of California, Merced, 5200 North Lake Road, Merced, CA 95343 (snicholson@ucmerced.edu). Article Note: An earlier version of this article was presented at the 2011 Annual Meeting of the Western Political Science Association in San Antonio, Texas, and the PICC group at Texas A&M. We thank Nehemia Geva, Tom Hansford, Doug Kriner, Quan Li, Francisco Pedraza, Brandon Valeriano, and Taehee Wang for helpful comments and suggestions. Replication Materials: The data, code, and any additional materials required to replicate all analyses in this article are available on the American Journal of Political Science Dataverse within the Harvard Dataverse Network, at: https://dataverse.harvard.edu/dataset.xhtml?persistentId=doi:10.7910/DVN/BLXMCY. Supporting information: Additional Supporting Information may be found in the online version of this article Additional Supporting Information may be found in the online version of this article at the publisher's website: CAPTION(S): Table 1. Descriptive Statistics for Cross-National Data Table 2. The Effect of Casualties on Party Vote Share Table 3. Variable Coding for Individual Level Analyses Table 4. Descriptive Statistics for U.S. and U.K. Samples Table 5. The Effect of Local Casualties on Turnout comparing Independents to Partisans in the 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2012 U.S. Elections (by county) Figure 5. Probability of Voting by Non-Partisans and Inter-election Casualties: 95% CI's US Sample

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|A466082828