The Effects of Militarized Interstate Disputes on Incumbent Voting Across Genders

Abstract

Gender and politics research argues that men are more hawkish and supportive of militarized confrontations with foreign foes, while women ostensibly prefer more diplomatic approaches. This suggests that, after a militarized confrontation with a foreign power, women’s likelihood of voting for the incumbent will both decrease and be lower than that of men. Our individual-level, cross-national examinations cover 87 elections in 40 countries, 1996–2011, and show only some support for such notions. Women punish incumbents when their country is targeted in a low-hostility militarized interstate dispute (MID) or when their country is the initiator of a high-hostility MID. The low-hostility MID initiation and high-hostility MID targeting scenarios, meanwhile, prompt women to be more likely to vote for the incumbent. Importantly, men’s reactions rarely differ from women’s, casting doubt on the existence of a gender gap in electoral responses to international conflict.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Notes

  1. 1.

    For related arguments and exhaustive literature reviews, see, for example, DeRouen (1995, 2000), Fordham (1998), James (1987), James and Oneal (1991), Levy (1998), Meernik (2004), Mitchell and Prins (2004), Mitchell and Thies (2011), Oneal and Tir (2006), Pickering and Kisangani (2005), and Tir (2010).

  2. 2.

    Blechman and Kaplan (1978), Brody (1991), Edwards and Gallup (1990), and Brace and Hinckley (1992) also report that rallies are uncertain and small on average.

  3. 3.

    If we remove abstainers, we find that 31.95% of those who voted chose the incumbent party.

  4. 4.

    MIDs are “united historical cases in which the threat, display or use of military force… by one member state is explicitly directed towards the government, official representatives, official forces, property, or territory of another state” (Jones et al. 1996, p. 168). The initiator of a dispute is the state that takes the first militarized action.

  5. 5.

    We take the average placement of the incumbent party provided by those with a college education because more educated individuals are likely to provide accurate ideological placements (Alvarez and Franklin 1994; Dahlberg 2013). The translated question wording is: “In politics people sometimes talk of left and right. Where would you place [the following political parties] on a scale from 0 to 10, where 0 means the left and 10 means the right?”

  6. 6.

    The translated question wording is: “In politics people sometimes talk of left and right. Where would you place yourself on a scale from 0 to 10 where 0 means the left and 10 means the right?” Left–right ideological self-placement measures are prone to missingness, and the extent to which individuals understand left–right semantics is related to both contextual and individual-level factors (Zechmeister 2006). Encouragingly, we found no link between missingness on the ideological self-placement measure and our dependent variable, incumbent voting. (In a logistic regression of incumbent voting on missingness, the two-sided p value associated with the coefficient on missingness was 0.56.).

  7. 7.

    The CSES asks: “Do you usually think of yourself as close to any particular political party?” If the answer is yes, the respondent is asked to identify this party.

  8. 8.

    With reference to Dalton’s (2008) party system dispersion measure, we measure the ideological spread of parties in government as \(\sqrt {\sum\nolimits_{{j = 1}}^{n} {(p_{j} - \bar{p})^{2} } }\), where pj is a given government party’s position on a 0–10 scale, \(\bar{p}\) is the mean government party position, and n is the number of parties in government. We assigned a value of zero, the measure’s lower bound, for presidential elections, which is also the value produced for single-party governments. Parties’ left–right orientations are again measured with the average of the placements provided by respondents with a college education.

  9. 9.

    All predicted probabilities reported in this study are calculated with the control variables held at their means.

  10. 10.

    Because the size and significance of a coefficient on an interaction term does not alone indicate support for an interactive hypothesis, or lack thereof, particularly in the case of a nonlinear model (cf. Berry et al. 2010; Berry et al. 2016; Brambor et al. 2006), we also examine whether the gender-specific marginal effects of MID initiation and targeting on the probability of incumbent voting, which are plotted in Fig. 1, are statistically different. The two-sided p values associated with the differences in the effects of MID initiation and targeting across men and women are 0.12 and 0.96, respectively, again indicating a lack of a significant difference in female and male reactions to MID initiation and targeting.

  11. 11.

    Also of some interest in previous research is how voters react to the leader’s gender (e.g. Falk and Kenski 2006; Lawless 2004; Regan and Paskeviciute 2003). Yet, because no election in our data set with a MID in the preceding year had a female leader, we cannot systematically explore the impact of leader gender.

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Acknowledgements

Previous versions of this paper were presented at the 2016 Meetings of the Southern Political Science Association in San Juan and at the 2017 Pan-European Conference on International Relations in Barcelona. We thank Erin Cassese, Kelly Kadera, T. Clifton Morgan, and Sarah Shair-Rosenfield for helpful comments. We also thank Maureen Bailey for research assistance.

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Correspondence to Shane P. Singh.

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Singh, S.P., Tir, J. The Effects of Militarized Interstate Disputes on Incumbent Voting Across Genders. Polit Behav 41, 975–999 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11109-018-9479-z

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Keywords

  • Voting behavior
  • Gender
  • Conflict
  • Diversion
  • Rally