Gender Difference in American Public Opinion on the Use of Military Force, 1982–2013


Eichenberg, Richard C. “Gender Difference in American Public Opinion on the Use of Military Force, 1982–2013.” International Studies Quarterly 60, no. 1 (March 1, 2016): 138–48. doi:10.1093/isq/sqv019.

Author: Richard C. Eichenberg


Recent scholarship indicates that gender correlates strongly with Americans' attitudes toward the use of military force. However, most of its evidence derives from the study of major wars, and the field needs more historical research to evaluate the evolution of gender difference over time. I redress these limitations by updating and extending my earlier (2003) analysis of public support for the use of force during the 1990s. I analyze 965 individual survey questions concerning the use of US military force in twenty-four historical episodes, beginning in 1982 with military aid to El Salvador and continuing through the recent wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. I find that substantial gender difference characterizes a large number of historical episodes and types of military action. Nonetheless, the magnitude of gender difference varies substantially; in many cases, a substantial percentage of women supports the use of force. The difference between men and women varies most with the salience and level of violence, and women are more sensitive to humanitarian concerns. Women display more sensitivity to casualties in some historical cases, but during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the casualty sensitivity of men gradually increased as the wars dragged on, and gender differences therefore decreased. Thus, I argue that scholars should turn their attention to studying individual-level differences between and among men and women in support for using military force. I also discuss the political and policy implications of the findings.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Women, Men, Gendered Discourses, Humanitarian Assistance, Violence

Year: 2016

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