Over at the political science blog The Monkey Cage, UNC-Charlotte professor James Igoe Walsh shares some polling research on American views about the use of force. He conducted an online experimental survey to test the impact of using drone strikes on support for the use of military force. He also introduces the chance of success and likelihood of civilian deaths in his study, which he described as follows:
To tackle this problem, earlier this summer I recruited via the internet a convenience panel of 1248 respondents in the United States to participate in a survey experiment. Each respondent was randomly assigned to read a hypothetical news story about planned military strikes on terrorist training camps in Yemen. These vignettes contained different information about the consequences of such strikes. The baseline treatment described the attacks as drone strikes causing no US military casualties, having a high likelihood of military success, and creating no civilian deaths. The next three treatments varied one of these factors, describing the attack as a raid that would produce about 25 US military casualties, as a drone strike that was unlikely to succeed, or a drone strike that would kill civilians. Respondents were then asked to rate their degree of support for this use of force on a four-point scale, with higher values indicating greater support.
His results imply (with certain caveats related to the reliability of online surveys and experiments) that support for the use of force may be the most dependent (among the three factors he tests) upon the likelihood of civilian casualties, not U.S. military casualties. He concludes:
These results suggest that drones may well alter how Americans think about using military force. The effect of military casualties found here implies that drone technology could make it much easier, and perhaps tempting, for Presidents to use them in conflicts overseas. The smaller effect of mission success means that even the prospect of failure may serve as only a small brake on such impulses. Civilian deaths, though, may well moderate support for drone strikes.
Read his full post here.