Political Behavior

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 379–401 | Cite as

The rally 'round the flag effect in U.S. foreign policy crises, 1950–1985

  • John R. Oneal
  • Anna Lillian Bryan


We calculate the rally 'round the flag effect (Mueller, 1970, 1973) for all 41 U.S. foreign policy crises, 1950–1985, identified by the International Crisis Behavior Project (Wilkenfeld, Brecher, and Moser, 1988). The mean change in the president's approval rating is surprisingly small: 1.4 percent among all respondents. The greatest influences on the rallying effect of a crisis are whether or not the United States is involved in an ongoing war and, especially, theNew York Times's coverage of the president's major response to a crisis. When a major response is reported in the headlines, the rally is more than 8 percentage points greater,ceteris paribus, than when it is not reported on the front page. TheNew York Times's reporting is influenced by the nature of the president's response, the efforts of his administration to publicize his actions, the degree of Soviet involvement, the location of the crisis, and the willingness of opposition leaders to take a newsworthy position regarding the president's performance.


Great Influence Foreign Policy York Time Major Response Front Page 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Apple, R. W., Jr. (1992). White House race is recast: No Kremlin to run against.New York Times, February 6, p. 1.Google Scholar
  2. Applebome, Peter (1991). War heals wounds at home, but not all.New York Times, March 4, p. 1.Google Scholar
  3. Berke, Richard L. (1993). Poll shows raid on Iraq buoyed Clinton's popularity.New York Times, June 29, p. A5.Google Scholar
  4. Blechman, Barry, and Stephen Kaplan, with others (1978).Force Without War. Washington, DC: Brookings.Google Scholar
  5. Brecher, Michael, and Patrick James (1986).Crisis and Change in World Politics. Boulder, CO: Westview.Google Scholar
  6. Brecher, Michael, and Jonathan Wilkenfeld (1988).Crisis, Conflict and Instability. Oxford: Pergamon.Google Scholar
  7. Brecher, Michael, and Jonathan Wilkenfeld (1990). International Crisis Behavior Project, 1929–1985 (Computer file). College Park, MD: Michael Brecher and Jonathan Wilkenfeld, University of Maryland (producers), 1989. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (distributor).Google Scholar
  8. Brecher, Michael, Jonathan Wilkenfeld, and Sheila Moser (1988).Crises in the Twentieth Century, Vol. I: Handbook of International Crises. Oxford: Pergamon.Google Scholar
  9. Brody, Richard (1984). International crises: A rallying point for the president?Public Opinion 6:41–43, 60.Google Scholar
  10. Brody, Richard A. (1991).Assessing the President. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Brody, Richard A., and Catherine R. Shapiro (1989). A reconsideration of the rally phenomenon in public opinion. In Samuel Long (ed.),Political Behavior Annual. Boulder, CO: Westview.Google Scholar
  12. Callaghan, Karen J., and Simo Virtanen (1993). Revised models of the “rally phenomenon”: The case of the Carter presidency.Journal of Politics 55:756–764.Google Scholar
  13. Darcy, R., and Sarah Slavin Schramm (1979). Comment on Kernell.American Political Science Review 73:543–545.Google Scholar
  14. Edwards, George C., with Alec M. Gallup (1990).Presidential Approval. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Friedman, Thomas L (1992). Bush says politics is not motivation in plans for Iraq.New York Times, August 17, p. 1.Google Scholar
  16. Gallup, George H. (1972).The Gallup Poll: Public Opinion 1935–1971, vol. 2. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  17. Gelb, Leslie H. (1992). Ousting Saddam or trapping Bush.New York Times, January 24, p. 13.Google Scholar
  18. Hildebrand, David, James Laing, and Howard Rosenthal (1977).Prediction Analysis for Cross Classifications. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  19. Holsti, Ole R. (1992). Public opinion and foreign policy: Challenges to the Almond-Lippmann consensus.International Studies Quarterly 36:439–466.Google Scholar
  20. Hugick, Larry, and Alec M. Gallup (1991). “Rally events” and presidential approval. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Public Opinion Research.Google Scholar
  21. James, Patrick, and John R. Oneal (1991). The influence of domestic and international politics on the president's use of force.Journal of Conflict Resolution 35:307–332.Google Scholar
  22. Jentleson, Bruce W. (1992). The pretty prudent public: Post post-Vietnam American opinion on the use of military force.International Studies Quarterly 36:49–74.Google Scholar
  23. Jordan, Donald L., and Benjamin I. Page (1992). Shaping Foreign Policy Opinions: The Role of TV News.Journal of Conflict Resolution 36:227–241.Google Scholar
  24. Kagay, Michael R. (1991). History suggests Bush's popularity will ebb.New York Times, May 22, p. 11.Google Scholar
  25. Kernell, Samuel (1978). Explaining presidential popularity.American Political Science Review 72:506–522.Google Scholar
  26. Kernell, Samuel (1986).Going Public: New Strategies of Presidential Leadership. Washington, DC: CQ Press.Google Scholar
  27. Lee, John R. (1977). Rallying 'round the flag.Presidential Studies Quarterly 7:252–256.Google Scholar
  28. Lewis-Beck, Michael S. (1980).Applied Regression. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  29. Lian, Brad, and John R. Oneal (1993). Presidents, the use of military force, and public opinion.Journal of Conflict Resolution 37:277–300.Google Scholar
  30. MacKuen, Michael (1983). Political drama, economic conditions, and the dynamics of presidential popularity.American Journal of Political Science 27:165–192.Google Scholar
  31. Marra, Robin F., Charles W. Ostrom, and Dennis M. Simon (1990). Foreign policy and presidential popularity.Journal of Conflict Resolution 34:588–623.Google Scholar
  32. Morgan, T. Clifton, and Kenneth N. Bickers (1992). Domestic discontent and the external use of force.Journal of Conflict Resolution 36:25–52.Google Scholar
  33. Mueller, John E. (1970). Presidential popularity from Truman to Johnson.American Political Science Review 64:18–34.Google Scholar
  34. Mueller, John E. (1973).War, Presidents, and Public Opinion. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  35. Nincic, Miroslav (1992). A sensible public: New perspectives on popular opinion and foreign policy.Journal of Conflict Resolution 36:772–789.Google Scholar
  36. Oneal, John R. (1988). The rationality of decision making during international crises.Polity 20:598–622.Google Scholar
  37. Oneal, John R., and Bradley Lian (1992). A reexamination of the domestic and international influences on the president's use of force. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association.Google Scholar
  38. Ostrom, Charles W., and Brian L. Job (1986). The president and the political use of force.American Political Science Review 80:541–566.Google Scholar
  39. Ostrom, Charles W., and Dennis Simon (1985). Promise and performance: A dynamic model of presidential popularity.American Political Science Review 79:334–358.Google Scholar
  40. Phillips, Kevin (1990). Morning Edition, National Public Radio. November 1.Google Scholar
  41. Russett, Bruce (1990a).Controlling the Sword. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Russett, Bruce M. (1990b). Economic decline, electoral pressure, and the initiation of international conflict. In Charles S. Gochman and Alan Ned Sabrosky (eds.),Prisoners of War? Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
  43. SAS Institute (1989).SAS/Stat Users' Guide, version 6, vol. 2, 4th ed. Cary, NC: SAS Institute.Google Scholar
  44. Schorr, D. (1992). Weekend Edition, National Public Radio. March 14.Google Scholar
  45. Sciolino, Elaine (1994). U.S. offers plan to avoid threat from Iraq again.New York Times, October 13, p. 1.Google Scholar
  46. Stimson, James A. (1976). Public support for American presidents.Public Opinion Quarterly 40:1–21.Google Scholar
  47. Tyler, Patrick E. (1992). U.S. said to plan raids on Baghdad if access is denied.New York Times, August 16, p. 1.Google Scholar
  48. U.S. Department of Labor (1991).CPI Detailed Report, June 1991. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  49. Van Belle, Doug (1992). Domestic political imperatives and dramatic uses of force. Paper presented at International Studies Association annual meeting, Atlanta, GA.Google Scholar
  50. Waltz, Kenneth (1967). Electoral punishment and foreign policy crises. In James N. Rosenau (ed.),Domestic Sources of Foreign Policy. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  51. Wilkenfeld, Jonathan, Michael Brecher, and Sheila Moser (1988).Crises in the Twentieth Century, vol. II: Handbook of Foreign Policy Crises. Oxford: Pergamon.Google Scholar
  52. Wittkopf, Eugene R. (1994). End of the Vietnam Syndrome? Domestic sources of international orientation change. In Charles F. Hermann, Margaret G. Hermann, and Richard K. Herrmann (eds.),Changing Course in Foreign Policy. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.Google Scholar
  53. Wittkopf, Eugene R., and Mark J. Dehaven (1987). Soviet behavior, presidential popularity, and the penetration of open political systems. In Charles F. Hermann, Charles W. Kegley, Jr., and James N. Rosenau (eds.),New Directions in the Study of Foreign Policy. Boston: Unwin Hyman.Google Scholar
  54. Zelikow, Philip D. (1987). The United States and the use of force. In George K. Osborn et al. (eds.),Democracy, Strategy, and Vietnam. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • John R. Oneal
    • 1
  • Anna Lillian Bryan
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of AlabamaTuscaloosa
  2. 2.Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public AffairsUniversity of Texas at AustinAustin

Personalised recommendations