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August 01, 2008

Ties to War-dead Are a Predictor of Likely Presidential Disapproval

Research published in the American Sociological Review shows presidential approval ratings influenced by personal links to victims of Iraq War, September 11

DAVIS, CALIF. — Those who know someone who died in the Iraq War or 9/11 terrorist attacks are less likely to approve of President Bush's performance in office than people who have no such connections, according to new research from the University of California, Davis. The pattern holds true for Republicans as well as Democrats, conservatives as well as liberals, and across all races, ages, education levels and incomes.

The research appears in the August issue of the American Sociological Review, the flagship journal of the American Sociological Association.

"The notion of blaming one's leader for the death of a family or community member from a terrorist attack or war might seem odd at first," said UC Davis political science professor Scott Sigmund Gartner, the study's author. "But a personal tie to a victim converts abstract, distant costs of international violence into a vivid, personal and profoundly emotional experience, one that has clear, strong and consistent political implications."

Gartner arrived at his conclusions by analyzing results of two large public opinion polls. One was a 2006 Gallup survey that asked a national sample of Americans about their ties to soldiers serving or killed in Iraq. The other was a 2001 Field Poll that asked Californians whether they had lost a friend, family member or business associate in the 9/11 attacks. Both polls also asked about party affiliation, political outlook and support for the president.

Gartner is the author of several earlier studies that looked at war casualties and public support for elected officials. The most recent, published in the April issue of the journal PS: Political Science, showed that members of Congress whose districts faced a disproportionate number of casualties in the weeks before the 2006 midterm elections were punished at the polls. In another study, published in February in American Political Science Review, Gartner argues that public support for elected leaders diminishes as both recent casualties and casualty trends increase.

For a copy of Gartner's research from the August issue of the American Sociological Review, contact Jackie Cooper, media relations officer at the American Sociological Association, at or (202) 247-9871.

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UC Davis Media Contacts:
* Scott Sigmund Gartner, Political Science, (530) 752-3065,
* Claudia Morain, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-9841,

About the American Sociological Association
The American Sociological Association (, founded in 1905, is a non-profit membership association dedicated to serving sociologists in their work, advancing sociology as a science and profession, and promoting the contributions to and use of sociology by society.