Domestic political support is an important factor constraining the use of American military power around the world. Although the dynamics of war support are thought to reflect a cost-benefit calculus, with costs represented by numbers of friendly war deaths, no previous study has examined how information about friendly, enemy, and civilian casualties is routinely presented to domestic audiences. This article establishes a baseline measure of historical casualty reporting by examining New York Times coverage of five major wars that occurred over the past century. Despite important between-war differences in the scale of casualties, the use of conscription, the type of warfare, and the use of censorship, the frequency of casualty reporting and the framing of casualty reports have remained fairly consistent over the past 100 years. Casualties are rarely mentioned in American war coverage. When casualties are reported, it is often in ways that minimize or downplay the human costs of war.
- content analysis
- newspaper coverage
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science