When War Hits Home: The Geography of Military Losses and Support for War in Time and Space

Scott L. Althaus, Brittany H. Bramlett, James G. Gimpel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The "proximate casualties" hypothesis holds that popular support for American wars is undermined more by the deaths of American personnel from nearby areas than by the deaths of those from far away. However, no previous research has tested the mechanisms that might produce this effect. This omission contributes to three areas of lingering uncertainty within the war support literature: whether national or local losses have a greater effect on war support, whether the negative effects of war deaths are durable or temporary, and whether the negative effects of war deaths have a greater influence on the most or least attentive citizens. Analysis of Iraq War data shows that local losses have a greater effect on war support than national losses, that these casualty effects decay rapidly, and that citizens who closely follow news at the national and local levels are least affected by new information about war costs. These findings run contrary to the prevailing cost-benefit calculus model of war support.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)382-412
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Conflict Resolution
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2012



  • Iraq
  • casualties
  • public opinion
  • spatial analysis
  • war support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations

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