Matthias Mader
Citizens’ Perceptions of Policy Objectives and Support for Military Action: Looking for Prudence in Germany

Journal of Conflict Resolution, 2017: 61, Heft 6, S. 1290-1314
ISSN: 0022-0027 (print); 1552-8766 (online)

This article is concerned with the role of perceived policy objectives in German citizens’ attitude formation toward military action in Afghanistan. While some scholars have claimed that public opinion is prudent because citizens assess the effectiveness of a mission on the basis of these perceptions, micro-level tests of this kind of prudence remain scare. Drawing on two cross-sectional surveys of the German population conducted in 2008 and 2009, we use responses to open-ended questions about the German government’s policy goals in Afghanistan to analyze whether such perceptions influenced support and whether any such influence was mediated via the perceived effectiveness of the mission. The results indicate that, irrespective of the level of political awareness, it was virtually irrelevant what German citizens perceived the military mission’s objectives to be. In contrast, value-based attitude formation emerges as more important, with the foreign policy predispositions antimilitarism and Atlanticism exhibiting especially large effects.