Explaining Support for Combatants during Wartime: A Survey Experiment in Afghanistan (SWP 17)

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
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Final version published as: 

Lyall, Jason, Kosuke Imai and Graeme Blair, Explaining Support for Combatants during Wartime: A Survey Experiment in Afghanistan, Simons Papers in Security and Development, No. 17/2011, School for International Studies, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, December 2011.


Date created: 
ISSN 1922-5725
Public opinion
Intergroup conflict
Civilian casualties
Multilevel modeling
Sensitive questions

How are civilians’ attitudes toward combatants affected by exposure to violence during wartime? Does civilian victimization affect these attitudes differently depending on the perpetrator’s identity? We investigate the determinants of wartime civilian attitudes towards combatants using a survey experiment across 204 villages in five Pashtun-dominated provinces of Afghanistan – the very heart of the Taliban insurgency. We use endorsement experiments to indirectly elicit truthful answers to sensitive questions about attitudes toward combatants. We find civilian attitudes toward the combatants to be asymmetric. Harm inflicted by ISAF is met with reduced ISAF support and increased Taliban support, but Taliban-inflicted harm does not translate into greater ISAF support. We combine a multistage sampling design with multilevel statistical modeling to estimate support levels for ISAF and the Taliban at the individual, village, and district levels, permitting a more fine-grained analysis of wartime attitudes than previously possible.


Jason Lyall homepage: http://politicalscience.yale.edu/people/jason-lyall


Kosuke Imai homepage: http://imai.princeton.edu


Graeme Blair homepage: http://graemeblair.com












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