by Dr. Douglas Kriner
and Dr. Francis Shen
Douglas Kriner is a
professor of political science at Boston University. His
research interests include American political
institutions, separation of powers dynamics, and
American military policymaking. Professor Kriner
graduated Phi Beta Kappa from MIT in 2001 and received
his Ph.D. in Government from Harvard University in 2006.
He has recently published two books on inter-branch
politics. The first, with Andrew Reeves, The
Particularistic President: Executive Branch Politics and
Political Inequality (Cambridge 2015; winner of the 2016
Richard E. Neustadt Award), explores how electoral,
partisan, and coalitional incentives compel presidents
to target federal resources disproportionately toward
some parts of the country and away from others. The
second, with Eric Schickler, Investigating the
President: Congressional Checks on Presidential Power
(Princeton 2016), examines Congress' ability to retain
some check on the aggrandizement of presidential power
through the investigatory arm of its committees. He is
also the author of After the Rubicon: Congress,
Presidents, and the Politics of Waging War (Chicago
2010; winner of the 2013 D.B. Hardeman Award) and
co-author, with Francis Shen, of The Casualty Gap: The
Causes and Consequences of American Military
Policymaking (Oxford 2010). Professor Kriner's work has
also appeared in the American Political Science Review,
American Journal of Political Science, and Journal of
Politics, among other outlets.
Francis Shen is an Associate Professor of Law at the
University of Minnesota, where he directs the Shen
Neurolaw Lab and explores the intersection of
neuroscience and law. He is also an Affiliated Faculty
Member at the Center for Law, Brain, and Behavior at
Massachusetts General Hospital, and serves as Executive
Director of Education and Outreach for the MacArthur
Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience. Dr.
Shen received his B.A. from the University of Chicago,
his J.D. from Harvard Law School, and his Ph.D. in
Government and Social Policy from Harvard University. He
has co-authored 3 books, including The Casualty Gap: The
Causes and Consequences of American Wartime Inequalities
(Oxford 2010), co-authored with Professor Douglas Kriner.
Kriner and Dr. Shen have also authored a number of
articles on American combat casualties, including most
recently Invisible Inequality: The Two Americas of
Military Sacrifice (2016). In addition to combat
casualties research, Dr. Shen has also published
articles on a range of neurolaw topics, including
criminal law, tort law, mental health, legislation,
dementia, and evidence.
America has been at war continuously for over 15 years, but few
Americans seem to notice.
This is because the vast majority of
citizens have no direct connection to those soldiers fighting,
dying, and returning wounded from combat. Increasingly, a divide is
emerging between communities whose young people are dying to defend
the country, and those communities whose young people are not.
this paper we empirically explore whether this divide - the casualty
gap - contributed to
Donald Trump's surprise victory in November 2016.
The data analysis presented in this working paper finds that indeed,
in the 2016 election Trump was speaking to this forgotten part of
America. Even controlling in a statistical model for many other
alternative explanations, we find that there is a significant and
meaningful relationship between a community's rate of military
sacrifice and its support for Trump.
Our statistical model suggests
that if three states key to Trump's victory - Pennsylvania,
Michigan, and Wisconsin - had suffered even a modestly lower
casualty rate, all three could have flipped from red to blue and
sent Hillary Clinton to the White House.
There are many implications
of our findings, but none as important as what this means for
Trump's foreign policy. If Trump wants to win again in 2020, his
electoral fate may well rest on the administration's approach to the
human costs of war.
Trump should remain highly sensitive to American combat casualties,
lest he become yet another politician who overlooks the invisible
inequality of military sacrifice.
More broadly, the findings suggest
that politicians from both parties would do well to more directly
recognize and address the needs of those communities whose young
women and men are making the ultimate sacrifice for the country.
Casualties and Ballot Box Defeat: Did the Bush-Obama Wars Cost
Clinton the White House?
Imagine a country continuously at war for nearly two decades.
Imagine that the wars were supported by both Democratic and
Continue to imagine that the country fighting these wars relied only
on a small group of citizens - a group so small that those who served
in theater constituted less than 1 percent of the nation's
population, while those who died or were wounded in battle comprised
far less than 1/10th of 1 percent of the nation's population. 1
finally, imagine that these soldiers, their families, friends, and
neighbors felt that their sacrifice and needs had long been ignored
by politicians in Washington.
Would voters in these hard hit communities get angry? And would they
seize an opportunity to express that anger at both political
parties? We think the answer is yes. And the proof is the 2016
victory of Donald J. Trump.
Trump's victory over Hillary Clinton has prompted massive
speculation about how the political pundits got it wrong. 2 Some
suggest it was Hillary's poor strategy and lack of messaging, 3 while
others point to Trump's ability to connect emotionally with an angry
Still others emphasize macro-level forces like the
With so much post-election analysis, it is surprising that no one
has pointed to the possibility that inequalities in wartime
sacrifice might have tipped the election. Put simply: perhaps the
small slice of America that is fighting and dying for the nation's
security is tired of its political leaders ignoring this
disproportionate burden. 6
To investigate this possibility, we
conducted an analysis of the 2016 Presidential election returns. In
previous research, we've shown that communities with higher casualty
rates are also communities from more rural, less wealthy, and less
educated parts of the country. 7
In both 2004 and 2006,
voters in these communities became more likely to vote against
politicians perceived as orchestrating the conflicts in which their
friends and neighbors died. 8
The data analysis presented in this working paper finds that in the
2016 election Trump spoke to this part of America. Even controlling
in a statistical model for many other alternative explanations, we
find that there is a significant and meaningful relationship between
a community's rate of military sacrifice and its support for Trump.
Indeed, our results suggest that if three states key to Trump's
victory - Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin - had suffered even a
modestly lower casualty rate, all three could have flipped from red
to blue and sent Hillary Clinton to the White House.
There are many implications of our findings. First, the findings
should signal to the White House that Trump's 2020 electoral fate
may well rest on the administration's approach to the human costs of
If Trump wants to maintain his connection to this part of his
base, his foreign policy would do well to be highly sensitive to
American combat casualties.
Many politicians have exhibited casualty sensitivity of course, but
if this segment of the electorate is particularly important to
Trump's fortunes in 2020, it may suggest a more powerful democratic
brake on foreign wars.
Second, the findings are also a lesson for
the Democrats and establishment Republicans who are still trying to
figure out how to beat Trump.
Our analysis suggests that politicians
from both parties would do well to more directly recognize and
address the needs of those communities whose young women and men are
making the ultimate sacrifice for the country.
Third, the results
also raise puzzling questions about the relationship between some of
Trump's rhetoric (for instance his highly-publicized argument with a
Gold Star family) and his perception amongst communities with higher
casualty rates. Further research is required to explore these and
The paper proceeds as follows.
In Part II, we review the relevant
scholarly literature on the political costs of high casualty rates.
In Part III, we present our analysis of the relationship between
local casualty rates and support for Trump.
In Part IV, we begin to
explore the implications of these results for policymaking and
II - Donald
Trump and the Politics of War Casualties
Between October 10, 2001 and the 2016 presidential election, almost
7,000 American service members lost their lives in wars in
Afghanistan and Iraq.
While the American public
initially rallied in support of both conflicts, public support
soured as their human costs rose. 9
Despite the kindling of
an Iraqi insurgency and President
Bush's embarrassingly premature
declaration of "Mission Accomplished," Bush secured reelection in
2004. However, he lost significant electoral ground in states and
communities that had paid the heaviest share of the war burden in
By 2006, the continuing deterioration of the situation
in Iraq emboldened Democrats to promise to end the war in the Middle
East. That year's midterm elections returned Democrats to power in
both chambers of Congress for the first time since before the 1994
Republican Revolution. Underlying this sweeping change was a further
erosion in support for the GOP among the constituencies hardest hit
by the war.
In both the Senate 11 and the House,
12 Republican losses
were steepest among communities that had suffered disproportionately
high casualty rates in Iraq. 13
Finally, in the 2008 presidential
election one of the starkest points of contrast between
and John McCain was their diametrically opposite views on the Iraq
War. McCain was a steadfast supporter and argued that the U.S. must
assiduously stay the course to ultimate victory. Obama had opposed
the war from the start and promised to end the conflict.
ultimately chose Obama in a landslide.
The electoral punishment suffered by Republicans in the 2000s was a
story of both casualty and economic inequality. The communities
suffering the most from the fighting overseas were communities with
lower income and education levels. 14
These communities, in turn, increasingly turned
against political candidates insisting on more combat.
GOP losses in communities hardest hit by the war echoes findings
from previous conflicts. When the United States goes to war, the
sacrifice that war exacts in blood is far from uniformly distributed
across the country. 15 And in the Civil War, 16 Korea,
17 Vietnam, 18
and Iraq, 19 constituencies that have suffered the highest casualty
rates have proven most likely to punish the ruling party at the
While previous research tells us much about how incumbent
politicians lose votes due to battlefield casualties, it offers few
clues as to how a candidate might win back such voters.
In many respects, the bombastic campaign of the billionaire
businessman and political neophyte Donald Trump appeared consciously
calculated to appeal to communities fed up with fifteen years of
costly and inconclusive war.
The core of Trump's nationalist,
populist message was to "make America great again." While the
details of the message shifted as the campaign developed, Trump
regularly praised the military - while also noting that at least some
of their efforts seemed to have been for naught.
On the campaign trail, Trump sometimes sounded like a traditional
hawk. He repeatedly mocked the Obama administration's passive
approach toward the Islamic State and boasted of
his intention to "bomb the hell out of ISIS."
Similarly, he derided
the Iran nuclear pact as one of the "worst deals" ever and promised
a more aggressive posture with increasingly bellicose rhetoric.
Channeling his inner Reagan, Trump also called for greater military
spending across the board, including on nuclear weapons, even if
such moves threatened to trigger a new arms race.
And perhaps above
all, Trump regularly pledged in his stump speeches to take care of
the military. 20 He noted repeatedly that the military's resources,
especially its manpower resources, were "depleted." 21
administration, he promised, would bring fresh manpower and weapons.
However, other Trump campaign themes were decidedly iconoclastic.
While few Republicans openly lauded the Iraq War in 2016, Trump
vehemently denounced it and the Republican president who waged it.
In a nationally televised debate before the South Carolina
primary, Trump minced few words:
"I want to tell you. They lied.
They said there were weapons of mass destruction, there were none.
And they knew there were none." 23
Again and again on the campaign
trail, Trump labeled Iraq a disaster and pledged to keep the United
States out of stupid wars.
As an example of this approach, when
asked how to grapple with the quagmire in Syria, Trump sang the
virtues of allowing Russia to play the lead role, as it would keep
the United States out of another costly and unnecessary foreign war.
theme was consistent with a similar sentiment from his kick-off
speech, where he both criticized the war in Iraq and recognized the
sacrifice of American troops:
"We spent $2 trillion in Iraq, $2
trillion. We lost thousands of lives, thousands in Iraq. We have
wounded soldiers, who I love, I love - they're great - all over
the place, thousands and thousands of wounded soldiers." 25
In sum, Trump promised a foreign policy that would be both
simultaneously more muscular and more restrained.
Trump promised to
rebuild and refocus the military:
"Our active duty armed forces have
shrunk from 2 million in 1991 to about 1.3 million today. … Our
military is depleted, and we're asking our generals and military
leaders to worry about global warming."
And he also promised to be
much more reticent in its use:
"Our friends and enemies must know
that if I draw a line in the sand, I will enforce it. However,
unlike other candidates for the presidency, war and aggression will
not be my first instinct.
You cannot have a foreign policy without
diplomacy. A superpower understands that caution and restraint are
signs of strength." 26
III - Assessing
Trump's Electoral Performance in High Casualty Constituencies
In one sense, all Americans have been affected by fifteen years of
nearly continuous war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Americans of all
stripes have watched each conflict's developments unfold through
extensive media coverage, movies, and personal stories from veterans
returning from combat.
Indeed, so great are its posited effects on
American society that some analysts have proclaimed the emergence of
an "Iraq Syndrome," echoing the public skepticism about the efficacy
of the use of force and the growing popular reluctance to employ it
that emerged after Vietnam. 27
However, on another, very
tangible dimension, some Americans have experienced the costs of war
much more acutely than others.
Most directly, of course, the costs
of war have been concentrated on those men and women who fought and
died in foreign theaters and on their families.
exposure to these costs has also varied significantly according to
the experience of their local communities. In the Iraq and
Afghanistan wars, for example, seven states have suffered casualty
rates of thirty or more deaths per million residents. By contrast,
four states have suffered casualty rates of fifteen or fewer deaths
As a result, Americans living in these states have had
different exposure to the war's human costs through the experiences
of their friends and neighbors and local media coverage. 28
At lower levels of aggregation, the disparities are often even more
as of the 2016
election, just over 50% of U.S. counties had experienced a
casualty rate in Iraq and Afghanistan of 1 or fewer deaths per
However, more than a quarter of counties had
experienced a casualty rate more than 3.5 times greater, and 10%
of counties had suffered casualty rates of more than 7 deaths
per 100,000 residents.
Voters in such communities increasingly
abandoned Republican candidates in a series of elections in the
To examine whether the
Trump campaign was able to reverse the GOP's earlier losses among
those constituencies hardest hit by the nation's recent wars, we
conduct analyses at both the state and county level.
previous research on the electoral impact of local casualties,
30 we operationalize the dependent variable as the change in the two
party-vote share received by the Republican candidate from 2012 to
This allows us to examine where Trump out-performed Mitt Romney four
years prior. Moreover, using the change in vote share from one
election to the next provides an important measure of statistical
control as many factors that affect the GOP vote share in a
constituency should have remained roughly unchanged over this short
To measure variation in communities' exposure to wartime casualties,
we accessed data from the Defense Casualty Analysis System of the
Department of Defense on 6,856 American soldiers killed pursuant to
operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. 31
Of these service members,
6,732 listed home of record information from one of the 50 states,
and 10 hailed from the District of Columbia. From this data, we
constructed casualty counts for each state and divided them by state
population to construct a casualty rate per million residents.
the vast majority of these soldiers, the DoD also provided a home
county of record. 33 To capture the greater nuance in the uneven
geographic allocation of casualties across the country, we
constructed casualty counts for each county and then divided them by
each county's population to create a casualty rate per 10,000
Because the relationship is easiest to visualize at the state level,
we first constructed a scatter plot showing each state's casualty
rate on the x-axis and the change in GOP vote share from 2012 to
2016 on the y-axis (Figure 1).
Trump out-performed Romney in forty of fifty states.
clear positive relationship shown in the scatter plot illustrates
Trump's ability to make electoral inroads among high casualty
Electoral Success in High Casualty States
How to read Figure 1:
Figure 1 illustrates that there is a direct
relationship between a state's combat casualty rate and the state's
support for Donald Trump.
As discussed in the main text, states that
experienced greater military sacrifice in the war in Iraq were more
likely to vote for Trump.
Additional statistical analysis confirms
that this relationship is robust, even when controlling for
Support for Trump, on the y-axis, is
measured as Trump's improvement (or decline) in state vote share as
compared to Mitt Romney in 2012. For example, 5% on the y-axis means
that Trump won 5% more of the state's votes in 2016 as compared to
Romney in 2012.
The state casualty rate, on the x-axis, is measured
as the per- capita (per 1 million) rate of soldiers from each state
who died in combat between 2001 and the 2016 election.
additional analysis, we found that the same relationship holds when
we measure the total number of soldiers killed and wounded in
Could Trump's gains among high casualty states have tipped the
The data suggests it is possible. After all, Trump's
victory in the Electoral College depended on razor-thin margins in a
handful of key states. Central to Trump's victory was his ability to
flip three reliably blue states:
Pennsylvania, Michigan, and
Trump carried each of these states by less than 1%.
terms of their share of wartime sacrifice, all three of these states
experienced casualty rates in Iraq and Afghanistan that placed them
in the middle of the distribution, nation- wide. Michigan's casualty
rate was the national median, while Pennsylvania's casualty rate was
just above the median and Wisconsin's just below it.
What if each of
these states had suffered a lower casualty rate - for example, that
of neighboring New York?
Figure 2 presents the estimates obtained from a simple regression
model. 36 In each state, our analysis predicts that Trump would have
lost between 1.4% and 1.6% of the vote if the state had suffered a
lower casualty rate.
As illustrated in Figure 2, such margins would
have easily flipped all three states into the Democratic column.
Trump's ability to connect with voters in communities exhausted by
more than fifteen years of war may have been critically important to
his narrow electoral victory.
How Lower Casualty Rates in
Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and
might have cost Clinton the election
How to read Figure 2:
Figure 2, which is based on the predictive statistical model
discussed in the text, graphically examines what would have happened
in the 2016 Presidential election if Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and
Michigan had experienced a lower casualty rate.
The darker red and
darker blue bars on the left plot the actual vote percentage for
Trump and for Clinton.
The lighter red and lighter blue bars on the
right plot the predicted vote percentage, if each of these states
had a lower casual rate.
Our models suggest that
- if there had been a
lower casualty rate in each state - Trump would have lost all three.
However, most states are large, heterogeneous places.
experiences and direct exposure to war costs of residents of upstate
and western New York, for example, may look very different from
those living in the New York City suburbs.
To account for these
intra- state differences and to paint a more nuanced picture, we
conducted a follow-up analysis of the relationship between Iraq and
Afghanistan war casualties and Trump's electoral success at the
county level. The first column in Table 1 presents the results of a
bivariate ordinary least squares regression of the change in GOP
vote share from 2012 to 2016 on a county's casualty rate.
As in the
state-level analysis, the relationship is positive and statistically
significant. Trump was even more successful in surpassing Romney's
2012 performance in communities that had suffered disproportionately
high casualty rates.
Prior research has shown that Iraq and Afghanistan war casualties
are not randomly distributed across the country. Rather, they
correlate significantly with other demographics that might also
identify communities particularly receptive to Trump's candidacy.
To insure that county casualty rates are not just serving as a proxy
for another characteristic identifying counties predisposed to
support Trump to a greater degree than Romney, we estimated a second
regression model including a number of control variables.
most importantly, because prior research has shown that recent war
casualties have hailed disproportionately from communities with
lower levels of income and educational attainment, we control for
each county's median family income and percentage of adult residents
with a college degree.
Exit polls from 2016 showed that Trump
performed well among voters without a college degree; as a result,
this is a particularly important control. 38
In addition to income and education, we also included three
variables indicating each county's racial composition: the
percentage of residents that were white, black, or Latino. Trump
struggled to connect with African American voters, and his hard-line
immigration policies alienated him from many Latinos.
As a result,
we expect Trump to struggle making electoral inroads in counties
with large non-white populations.
Finally, we control for the percentage of each county's population
that lives in rural areas, as well as the percentage of each
county's population that are military veterans. The results are
presented in column 2 of Table 1.
Even after including all of these demographic control variables, the
relationship between a county's casualty rate and Trump's electoral
performance remains positive and statistically significant.
outperformed Romney in counties that shouldered a disproportionate
share of the war burden in Iraq and Afghanistan. 39
IV - Looking
Ahead - An Electoral Check on Military Adventurism?
When President Obama won in 2008, pundits regularly discussed
frustration with the Iraq War as a factor motivating voters.
when Obama won re-election in 2012 the wartime narrative was not as
prominent. And in the post-election analysis of the 2016 cycle,
discussion of war fatigue has been all but absent.
may plausibly be due to the fact that most American elites in the
chattering class have not, at least in recent years, been directly
affected by on-going conflicts. Children of elites are not as likely
to serve and die in the Middle East, and
elite communities are thus less likely to make this a point of
The costs of war remain largely hidden, and an
invisible inequality of military sacrifice has taken hold. 40
analysis in this paper suggests that Trump recognized and
capitalized on this class-based divergence. His message resonated
with voters in communities who felt abandoned by traditional
politicians in both parties.
If our interpretation of the data is correct, what does this mean
for the future of policymaking in the Trump administration? Trump's
surprise victory has raised pressing questions about how the
political neophyte will exercise his newfound political power.
During the campaign, scores of national security experts, including
many prominent Republicans, publicly denounced Trump, warning that
he possessed neither the knowledge base nor the temperament to lead
the world's most powerful military. 41
In his first months in office,
Trump's continued cavalier rhetoric concerning nuclear weapons and a
renewed arms race, coupled with controversial national security
staffing decisions - such as removing the chairman of the Joint
Chiefs and the Director of National Intelligence from the National
Security Council's principals committee and to elevate former
Breitbart CEO and political adviser Steve Bannon to the same body
- did little to assuage such concerns. 42
As of this writing in June 2017, Trump has significantly increased
bombing of ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria. 43
This includes dropping
the Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) bomb, known as the
all bombs." While these actions were criticized by some, they also
drew bi-partisan support because some of the bombs were in reaction
to gas attacks carried out by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Congress and the courts are unlikely to offer a significant check on
President Trump's unilateral authority to direct the nation's
military policy. While Congress possesses the constitutional powers
needed to provide such a check, perhaps foremost the power of the
purse, it often lacks the political will to use them. This will
almost certainly be the case for the foreseeable future with
Republicans in charge of both chambers of Congress.
Courts can, and
have, struck down some executive actions that exceed constitutional
limits on executive power, even in the military realm.
these cases are limited in number and scope. As a result, public
opinion and, ultimately, the ballot box may be the strongest check
on presidential recklessness.
All presidents consider the likely judgment of voters, both for
their own reelection and for the prospects of a co-partisan
successor who can defend their legacies. However, the significant
inroads that Trump made among constituencies exhausted by fifteen
years of war - coupled with his razor thin electoral margin (which
approached negative three million votes in the national popular
tally) - should make Trump even more cautious in pursuing ground
Trump, of course, has already proven in his first 100 days
that conventional wisdom (and conventional political theory) may not
apply to his administration. However, Trump has plainly demonstrated
keen electoral instincts and may well think twice before taking
actions that risk alienating an important part of his base.
Our results also have important implications for Democrats.
Currently the Democratic Party is engaging in a period of fitful
soul searching in a quest to understand its inability to connect
with many working class and rural voters who abandoned the party of
Much of this introspection has focused on the party's
position on trade policy, economic inequality, and emphasis on
However, Democrats may also want to reexamine
their foreign policy posture if they hope to erase Trump's electoral
gains among constituencies exhausted and alienated by fifteen years
County Casualty Rates and Change in GOP Vote Share,
Table 1 presents
the results of ordinary least squares regression in which dependent
variable is the change in GOP share of the two-party vote from 2012
to 2016. Standard errors in parentheses. All significance tests are
* p < 0.05
** p < 0.01
For data on the
number of Americans who died or were wounded in the Iraq and
Afghanistan wars, see:
For an estimate of the number of Americans who have served
in theater, see:
For an analysis
of the election forecast models, see James E. Campbell, et
al, A Recap of the 2016 Election Forecasts, 50 POLITICAL
SCIENCE & POLITICS 331 (2017).
AMIE PARNES &
JONATHAN ALLEN, SHATTERED: INSIDE HILLARY CLINTON'S DOOMED
messaging failures, see Molly Ball, Why Hillary Clinton Lost
(The Atlantic, Nov 15, 2016); on Trump's connection with an
angry electorate, see: Jeff Guo, A New Theory for Why Trump
Voters Are So Angry - That Actually Makes Sense (Washington
Post, Nov 8, 2016).
Op-Ed: Why did Trump win? The Economy, Stupid (Los Angeles
Times, Nov 9, 2016).
Even prior to the
election, we were on record as suggesting this might be the
case. As one of us said in a radio interview in September,
"… it will be very interesting to see after the election …
the extent to which this group [overlooked, primarily white,
working class veterans] and others like them found a voice
in the Trump campaign… Trump is speaking, in part, to a
group who hasn't found their voice heard by other
DOUGLAS L. KRINER
& FRANCIS X. SHEN, THE CASUALTY GAP (2010).
See, infra, Part
Eichenberg, Richard Stoll & Matthew Lebo, War President: The
Approval Ratings of George W. Bush, 50
J. CONFLICT RESOL. 783 (2006); Christopher Gelpi, Peter D.
Feaver & Jason Reifler, Success Matters: Casualty
Sensitivity and the War in Iraq, 30 INT'L SECURITY 7
(2005/2006); Erik Voeten & Paul Brewer, Public Opinion, the
War in Iraq, and Presidential Accountability, 50 J. CONFLICT
RESOL. 809 (2006); Matthew A. Baum & Tim Groeling, Reality
Asserts Itself: Public Opinion on Iraq and The Elasticity Of
Reality, 64 INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION 443 (2010).
David Karol &
Edward Miguel, The Electoral Cost of War: Iraq Casualties
and the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election, 69 J. Pol. 633
Douglas L. Kriner
& Francis X. Shen, Iraq Casualties and the 2006 Senate
Elections, 32 LEGIS. STUD. Q. 507, 516-23 (2007); Scott
Sigmund Gartner & Gary M. Segura, All Politics Are Still
Local: The Iraq War and the 2006 Midterm Elections, 41 POL.
SCI. & POL. 95 (2008).
Christian Grose &
Bruce Oppenheimer, The Iraq War, Partisanship, and Candidate
Attributes: Explaining Variation in Partisan Swing in the
2006 U.S. House Elections, 32 LEGIS. STUD. Q. 531 (2007)
This pattern is
not unique to the Iraq War. Previous research has shown how
voters in high casualty constituencies have punished
incumbents associated with the war in conflicts ranging from
the Civil War (Carson, Jenkins, Rohde, and Souva 2001), to
Korea (Kriner and Shen 2010), to Vietnam (Gartner, Segura,
and Barratt 2004; Kriner and Shen 2010).
military recruiting has long emphasized the importance of
economic incentives, in addition to patriotism. Even today,
as the Army struggles to retain experienced soldiers, it is
significantly increasing re-enlistment bonuses, while the
Air Force is considering resorting to "stop-loss" orders to
compel pilots to remain in the force even after their terms
of service conclude. Lolita Baldor, "Needing Troops, Army
Offers up to $90k Bonuses to Reenlist," (Associated Press,
June 6, 2017),
John Donnelly, "Stop-Loss an Option for Air Force to Keep
Departing Pilots," (Roll Call¸ April 10, 2017),
Kriner & Shen
(2010); DENNIS LAICH, SKIN IN THE GAME: POOR KIDS AND
PATRIOTS (2013); KATHY ROTH- DOUQUET & FRANK SCHAEFFER,
AWOL: THE UNEXCUSED ABSENCE OF AMERICA'S UPPER CLASSES FROM
MILITARY SERVICE - AND HOW IT HURTS OUR COUNTRY (2007).
Jamie Carson et
al., The Impact of National Tides and District-Level Effects
on Electoral Outcomes: The U.S. Congressional Elections of
1862-63, 42 Am. J. Pol. Sci. 887 (2001)
Kriner & Shen
Gartner, Gary M. Segura & Bethany A. Barratt, War
Casualties, Policy Positions, and the Fate of Legislators,
53 POL. RES. Q. 467 (2004); Kriner & Shen (2010).
Douglas L. Kriner
& Francis X. Shen, Invisible Inequality: The Two Americas of
Military Sacrifice, 46 U. MEM. L. REV. 545 (2016).
For instance, in
his speech Trump said: "We have an Army that hasn't been in
this position since World War II, in terms of levels and in
terms of readiness and in terms of everything else. We are
not capable like we have to be. This will be one of my most
important elements. When I talk cost cutting, I do for so
many different departments where the money is pouring and
they don't even know what to do with it. But when it comes
to the military we have to enhance our military. It's
depleted. That's the word I tend to use. It's a depleted - we have a very depleted military. We have great people, we
have a depleted military. I told you about the jet fighters.
Well it's like that with so many other things. So we are
going to take care of our military. We're going to take care
of our military - the people in our military, the finest
people we have." Remarks at a panel hosted by the Retired
American Warriors PAC in Herndon, Va., Oct 3, 2016. Online:
See also Trump's
speech on April 27, 2016 at an event hosted by the National
Whether or not
Trump had actually been against the war originally was a
matter of dispute. See, e.g., Tim Murphy, What Did Donald
Trump Say on the Iraq War and When Did He Say It? (Mother
Jones, Sept 26, 2016).
"The CBS News
Republican Debate Transcript: Annotated." February 13, 2016,
announcement speech on June 16, 2015:
Foreign Policy at the National Press Club on April 27, 2016:
John Mueller, The
Iraq Syndrome, 84 FOREIGN AFFAIRS 44 (2005).
Scott L. Althaus,
et al, When War Hits Home: The Geography Of Military Losses
And Support For War In Time And Space, 56 JOURNAL OF
CONFLICT RESOLUTION 382 (2012).
David Karol &
Edward Miguel, The Electoral Cost of War: Iraq Casualties
and the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election, 69 J. POL. 633
(2007); Douglas L. Kriner & Francis X. Shen, Iraq Casualties
and the 2006 Senate Elections, 32 LEGIS. STUD. Q. 507
(2007); Grose & Oppenheimer, supra note 12. Gartner and
Segura, supra note 11.
Karol & Miguel,
supra note 10; Kriner & Shen (2007), supra note 29; Kriner &
Shen (2010), supra note 7.
use the casualty lists provided by the DoD for Operation
Enduring Freedom; Operation Freedom's Sentinel; Operation
Iraqi Freedom; and Operation New Dawn.
data taken from the 2016 U.S. Census, Population Division.
stipulate that the home of record is each soldier's home at
the time of enlistment. By contrast, a soldier's "legal
residence" can be changed to the location in which they are
stationed if they intend to remain there.
https://www.army.mil/article/160640. The DoD records
provided (or we were able to identify if missing) home
county data for 6,475 service members. For most of the
remaining 257 service members, the DoD reported their home
county as "multiple," indicating that their home city of
record spanned multiple counties.
population estimates were obtained from the Census Bureau's
2015 American Community Survey.
Utah represents a
clear outlier in the scatter plot. Because the dependent
variable is the change in the two-party vote share, this is
not due to Evan McMullen's success as a third party
candidate in the state. Rather, it reflects Romney's
exceptional strength in heavily Mormon Utah in 2012, and
Trump's failure to connect with the same constituency in
2016. However, excluding Utah from the analysis yields
virtually identical results; for example, the bivariate
correlation coefficient decreases only slightly from r = .35
with Utah to r = .31 excluding it.
obtained from a bivariate regression illustrated by the
best-fit line in the scatter plot presented in Figure 1.
Column 2 of Table 1 presents results from a multivariate
regression using county-level data.
Kriner & Shen
(2010), supra note 7; Kriner & Shen (2016), supra note 19.
Although not the
focus of our present investigation, it is worth noting that
the coefficients for many of the control variables also
accorded with expectations. Trump significantly
over-performed Romney in counties with greater percentages
of residents who did not hold a college degree. He
under-performed Romney in counties with higher African
American and Latino populations, but over-performed in
counties with larger white populations. Finally, Trump ran
ahead of Romney in rural communities as well as in
communities with large shares of military veterans.
Kriner & Shen
(2016), supra note 19.
Note: This decision has since been reversed under new
National Security Adviser, H.R. MacMaster.
http://www.afcent.af.mil/Portals/82/Airpower Summary - March