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British Opinion about the War in Afghanistan

- October 5, 2010

Political scientists Douglas Kriner and Graham Wilson “have posted”:http://www.britannica.com/blogs/2010/10/assessing-british-support-for-the-war-in-afghanistan/ this graph over at the Britannica blog:

warsuppprt2.jpg

Two things to explain in this graph: the apparent decline in support between 2002 and 2007, and the increase in support since then. Kriner and Wilson:

bq. The paucity of polling data during this period renders it all but impossible to determine precisely why British war support fell so precipitously. One explanation that can be eliminated is the accumulation of casualties. Casualties cannot explain the downward arc of British war support in these early years, because support had eroded to very low levels before British casualties began to mount. Instead, perhaps the most likely culprit is the lurking specter of the Iraq War, which may have undermined efforts to maintain support for the military commitment in Afghanistan….

bq. …Since the summer of 2006, the number of British soldiers who have died in the Afghanistan has increased rapidly from less than 20 as of June 2006 to more than 300 as of July 2010. Yet, in the face of this increase the data suggests that public support for the conflict has actually increased slightly over time. The winding down of British involvement in Iraq and reiterated claims by politicians across the ideological spectrum supporting the need to stay the course in Afghanistan is the most probable explanation for this surprising trend. Moreover, when we look at individual-level support for the war, we find that Labour, Conservative, and Liberal Democrat party identifiers who are more attentive to politics are more supportive of the Afghan War, on average, than are their peers with identical political and demographic characteristics. This, too, is consistent with elite opinion leadership as such citizens are both most likely to receive the cues backing the war transmitted by political elites and to incorporate these signals into their policy preferences.

For a similar perspective, see Lee’s “old post”:https://themonkeycage.org/2007/12/public_opinion_dynamics_during.html on Adam Berinsky’s work.