Spurred by Threats or Afraid of War? A Survey Experiment on Costs of Conflict in Support for Military Action

Kristian Skrede Gleditsch, Atsushi Tago, Seiki Tanaka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


It is commonly assumed that perceived threats from a rival state will make individuals more likely to "rally-round-the-flag" and support military action. Previous studies have looked at how information about threats affects public support for military action. To date, however, there has been less attention to how information about the costs of conflict affects support for military action in response to threats. In this article, we present a survey experiment designed to evaluate how information about the likely military and economic costs of conflict influences support for military action. We provide Japanese respondents with information about relations with China, and probe how support for military action in the context of the ongoing territorial dispute changes with varying information on the military costs of conflict and its economic consequences. We find that information about trade ties and military capacity exerts a pacifying effect and strengthens opposition to military action. Consistent with our proposed mechanism, we show that greater awareness of military costs is associated with stronger opposition to military action. Our results indicate that even under the existence of external threats, greater awareness of the costs of conflict affects attitudes to military action and can increase support for peaceful solutions to territorial rivalries.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20180023
JournalPeace Economics, Peace Science and Public Policy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • China
  • Japan
  • arming
  • interdependence
  • public opinion
  • territorial disputes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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