Life and Limb: New Estimates of Casualty Aversion in the United States

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Dramatic improvements in US military medicine have produced an equally dramatic shift in the kinds of battle casualties the US military has sustained in its most recent wars. Specifically, there has been a notable increase in the ratio of nonfatal to fatal casualties. Most studies of casualty aversion in the United States, however, have focused on fatal casualties. Using a series of survey experiments, I investigate whether respondents are equally sensitive to fatal and nonfatal casualties, differences between populations with and without close military ties, and whether views on casualties are conditioned by respondents' level of knowledge about casualties or the individual costs of war they expect to incur. I find that, while the general public is generally insensitive to different types of casualties, respondents with close ties to the military are better able to distinguish among kinds of casualties. This advantage, however, is not due to respondents with close military ties being better informed about war casualties. Instead, those who bear the costs of war directly appear better able to distinguish among those costs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)160-172
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Studies Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 14 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Author(s) (2020). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the International Studies Association.


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