Public Opinion and the Democratic Peace
One of the most striking findings in political science is the democratic peace: the absence of war between democracies. Some authors have attempted to explain this phenomenon by highlighting the role of public opinion. They observe that democratic leaders are beholden to voters, and argue that voters oppose war because of its human and financial costs. This logic predicts that democracies should behave peacefully in general, but history shows that democracies avoid war primarily in their relations with other democracies. In this article we investigate not whether democratic publics are averse to war in general, but instead whether they are especially reluctant to fight other democracies. We embedded experiments in public opinion polls in the U.S. and the U.K., and found that individuals are substantially less supportive of military strikes against democracies than against otherwise identical autocracies. Moreover, our experiments suggest that shared democracy pacifies the public primarily by changing perceptions of threat and morality, not by raising expectations of costs or failure. These findings shed light on a debate of enduring importance to scholars and policymakers.
Michael Tomz is Professor of Political Science at Stanford University. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Stanford Center for International Development and at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
Tomz has published in the fields of international relations, American politics, comparative politics, and statistical methods. He is the author of Reputation and International Cooperation: Sovereign Debt across Three Centuries and numerous articles in political science and economics journals.
Tomz received the International Studies Association’s Karl Deutsch Award, given to a scholar who, within 10 years of earning a Ph.D., has made the most significant contribution to the study of international relations. He has also won the Giovanni Sartori Award for the best book developing or applying qualitative methods; the Jack L. Walker Award for the best article on Political Organizations and Parties; the best paper award from the APSA section on Elections, Public Opinion and Voting Behavior; the best paper award from the APSA section on Experimental Research; and the Okidata Best Research Software Award. His research has been supported by the National Science Foundation.
In recognition of his teaching, Tomz has received the Dean’s Award for Distinguished Teaching and the Cox Medal for Excellence in Fostering Undergraduate Research at Stanford. He founded and continues to direct the Summer Research College program for undergraduates in political science.
Tomz holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University; a master’s degree from the University of Oxford, where he was a Marshall Scholar; and an undergraduate degree from Georgetown University. He has been a visiting scholar at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, the Hoover Institution, the Institute for Research in the Social Sciences, and the International Monetary Fund.
Last modified Sunday, May 19, 2013 - 2:20pm