Hostname: page-component-77c89778f8-sh8wx Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-07-20T13:19:25.677Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Explaining Support for Combatants during Wartime: A Survey Experiment in Afghanistan

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 November 2013

Yale University
Princeton University
Princeton University
Jason Lyall is Associate Professor of Political Science, Department of Political Science, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520 (,
Graeme Blair is a Ph.D. candidate, Department of Politics, Princeton University, Princeton NJ 08544 (,
Kosuke Imai is Professor, Department of Politics, Princeton University, Princeton NJ 08544 (,


How are civilian attitudes toward combatants affected by wartime victimization? Are these effects conditional on which combatant inflicted the harm? We investigate the determinants of wartime civilian attitudes towards combatants using a survey experiment across 204 villages in five Pashtun-dominated provinces of Afghanistan—the heart of the Taliban insurgency. We use endorsement experiments to indirectly elicit truthful answers to sensitive questions about support for different combatants. We demonstrate that civilian attitudes are asymmetric in nature. Harm inflicted by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is met with reduced support for ISAF and increased support for the Taliban, but Taliban-inflicted harm does not translate into greater ISAF support. We combine a multistage sampling design with hierarchical modeling to estimate ISAF and Taliban support at the individual, village, and district levels, permitting a more fine-grained analysis of wartime attitudes than previously possible.

Research Article
Copyright © American Political Science Association 2013 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)



Akerlof, George, and Yellen, Janet. 1994. Gang Behavior, Law Enforcement, and Community Values. In Values and Public Policy, eds. Aaron, Henry, Mann, Thomas, and Timothy, Taylor. Washington, DC: Brookings, 173204.Google Scholar
Allport, Gordon. 1954. The Nature of Prejudice. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
Barabas, Jason, and Jennifer, Jerit. 2010. “Are Survey Experiments Externally Valid?American Political Science Review 104 (2): 226–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Barfield, Thomas. 2010. Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Beath, Andrew, Christia, Fotini, and Enikolopov, Ruben. 2011. “Winning Hearts and Minds? Evidence from a Field Experiment in Afghanistan.” MIT Political Science Working Paper No. 2011–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Berinsky, Adam. 2004. Silent Voices: Opinion Polls and Political Representation in America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Berman, Eli, Shapiro, Jacob, and Felter, Joseph. 2011. “Can Hearts and Minds Be Bought? The Economics of Counterinsurgency in Iraq.Journal of Political Economy 119: 766819.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Berrebi, Claude. 2007. “Evidence About the Link Between Education, Poverty and Terrorism Among Palestinians.Peace Science and Public Policy 13: 136.Google Scholar
Blair, Graeme, Fair, Christine, Malhotra, Neil and Shapiro, Jacob. 2013. “Poverty and Support for Militant Politics: Evidence from Pakistan.” American Journal of Political Science 57 (1): 3048.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Brewer, Marilyn. 1999. “The Psychology of Prejudice: Ingroup Love or Outgroup Hate?Journal of Social Issues 55: 429444.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Brück, Tilman, Justino, Patricia, Verwimp, Philip, and Avdeenko, Alexandra. 2010. “Identifying Conflict and Violence in Micro-Level Surveys.” IZA Discussion Paper No. 5067.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bueno de Mesquita, Ethan. 2005. “The Quality of Terror.American Journal of Political Science 49: 515–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bullock, Will, Imai, Kosuke, and Shapiro, Jacob N.. 2011. “Statistical Analysis of Endorsement Experiments: Measuring Support for Militant Groups in Pakistan.Political Analysis 19 (4): 363–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict. 2010 a. Addressing Civilian Harm in Afghanistan: Policies and Practices of International Forces. New York: CIVIC.Google Scholar
Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict. 2010 b. United States Military Compensation to Civilians in Armed Conflict. New York: CIVIC.Google Scholar
Chandra, Kanchan, and Wilkinson, Steven. 2008. “Measuring the Effect of ‘Ethnicity’.” Comparative Political Studies 41: 515–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Collier, Paul, and Hoeffler, Anke. 2004. “Greed and Grievance in Civil War.Oxford Economic Papers 56: 563–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Condra, Luke, and Shapiro, Jacob. 2012. “Who Takes the Blame? The Strategic Effects of Collateral Damage.American Journal of Political Science 56 (1): 167–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Condra, Luke, Felter, Jospeh, Iyengar, Radha, and Shapiro, Jacob. 2011. “The Effects of Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq.” NBER Working Paper 16152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cook, S.W. 1971. The Effect of Unintended Interracial Contact Upon Racial Interaction and Attitude Change. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Project No. 5Ð1320, Final Report.Google Scholar
Crews, Robert, and Tarzi, Amin. 2008. The Taliban and the Crisis of Afghanistan. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Crost, Benjamin, and Johnston, Patrick. 2010. “Aid Under Fire: Development Projects and Civil Conflict.” ISP Discussion Paper 2010-18.Google Scholar
DeMaio, T. J. 1984. Social Desirability and Survey Measurement: A Review. In Surveying Subjective Phenomena, eds. Charles F. Turner and Elizabeth Martin. Vol. 2. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 257–81.Google Scholar
Esses, Victoria, Dovidio, John, Jackson, Lynne, and Armstrong, Tamara. 2001. “The Immigration Dilemma: The Role of Perceived Group Competition, Ethnic Prejudice, and National Identity.Journal of Social Issues 57: 389412.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fearon, James, and Laitin, David. 2003. “Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War.American Political Science Review 97 (1): 7590.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Giustozzi, Antonio. 2008. Koran, Kalashnikov, and Laptop: The Neo-Taliban Insurgency in Afghanistan. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
Hale, Henry. 2008. The Foundations of Ethnic Politics: Separatism of States and Nations in Eurasia and the World. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hewstone, Miles, Rubin, Mark, and Willis, Hazel. 2002. “Intergroup Bias.Annual Review of Psychology 53: 575604.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Human Rights First. 2011. Detained and Denied in Afghanistan: How to Make U.S. Detention Comply with the Law. New York: Human Rights First.Google Scholar
International Crisis Group. 2008. Taliban Propaganda: Winning the War of Words? New York: International Crisis Group.Google Scholar
Johnson, Thomas, and Mason, M. Chris. 2008. “No Sign until the Burst of Fire: Understanding the Pakistan-Afghanistan Frontier.International Security 32: 4177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jones, Seth. 2009. In the Graveyard of Empires: America's War in Afghanistan. New York: W.W. Norton.Google Scholar
Kalyvas, Stathis. 2006. The Logic of Violence in Civil War. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kalyvas, Stathis, and Kocher, Matthew. 2007. “How “Free” is Free-Riding in Civil War? Violence, Insurgency, and the Collective Action Problem.World Politics 59 (2): 177216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kilcullen, David. 2009. The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Kocher, Matthew, Pepinsky, Thomas, and Kalyvas, Stathis. 2011. “Aerial Bombing and Counterinsurgency in the Vietnam War.American Journal of Political Science 55: 201–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, Royal United Services Institute, and Transparency International UK. 2011. Afghanistan in Transition: Governance, Counter-Corruption and Development: Reshaping Priorities for 2015 and Beyond. London, UK: RUSI.Google Scholar
Krueger, Alan, and Maleckova, Jitka. 2003. “Education, Poverty, and Terrorism: Is There a Causal Connection?Journal of Economic Perspectives 17: 119–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Leites, Nathan, and Wolf, Charles. 1970. Rebellion and Authority: An Analytic Essay on Insurgent Conflicts. Chicago: Markham Publishing Company.Google Scholar
Lord, Charles, Ross, Lee, and Lepper, Mark. 1979. “Biased Assimilation and Attitude Polarization: The Effects of Prior Theories on Subsequently Considered Evidence.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 37: 2098–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lyall, Jason. 2010. “Are Co-Ethnics More Effective Counterinsurgents? Evidence from the Second Chechen War.American Political Science Review 104: 120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mampilly, Zachariah. 2011. Rebel Rulers: Insurgent Governance and Civilian Life During War. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
Mao, Tse-tung. 1961. On Guerrilla Warfare. Chicago: Praeger.Google Scholar
Nixon, Hamish. 2011. Achieving Durable Peace: Afghan Perspectives on a Peace Process. Oslo and New York: PRIO and USIP.Google Scholar
Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. 2009. Afghanistan's High Office of Oversight Needs Significantly Strengthened Authority, Independence, and Donor Support to Become an Effective Anti-Corruption Institution. Washington, DC: Government Accountability Office.Google Scholar
Paluck, Elizabeth, and Green, Donald. 2009. “Prejudice Reduction: What Works? A Critical Look at Evidence from the Field and the Laboratory.Annual Review of Psychology 60: 339–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Petersen, Roger. 2001. Resistance and Rebellion: Lessons of Eastern Europe. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Petersen, Roger. 2002. Understanding Ethnic Violence: Fear, Hatred, and Resentment in Twentieth-Century Eastern Europe. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Plummer, Martyn. 2009. “JAGS: Just Another Gibbs Sampler.” Scholar
Popkin, Samuel. 1979. The Rational Peasant: The Political Economy of Rural Society in Vietnam. Berkeley: University of California Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stoll, David. 1993. Between Two Armies in the Ixil Towns of Guatemala. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
Tajfel, H., and Turner, J.C.. 1979. An Integrative Theory of Intergroup Conflict. In The Social Psychology of Intergroup Relations, eds. Austin, W. G., and Worchel, S.. Monterey, CA: Brooks-Cole, 3347.Google Scholar
Tajfel, Henri. 1970. “Experiments in Intergroup Discrimination.Scientific American 223: 96102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tajfel, Henri, ed. 2010. Social Identity and Intergroup Relations. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
The Asia Foundation. 2010. Afghanistan in 2010: A Survey of the Afghan People. New York: The Asia Foundation.Google Scholar
Thompson, Robert. 1966. Defeating Communist Insurgency. London: Chatto & Windus.Google Scholar
Tomsen, Peter. 2011. The Wars of Afghanistan: Messianic Terrorism, Tribal Conflicts, and the Failures of the Great Powers. New York: PublicAffairs.Google Scholar
Trinquier, Roger. 2006. Modern Warfare: A French View of Counterinsurgency. New York: Praeger.Google Scholar
United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. 2011. Civilian Casualty Data (2008-2010) as of 24 February 2011. Kabul, Afghanistan: UNAMA.Google Scholar
United Nations Office of Drug Control. 2010. Afghanistan Opium Survey: 2010. New York: UNODC.Google Scholar
United States Agency for International Development. 2011 a. ACAP Final Evaluation. Washington, DC: USAID.Google Scholar
United States Agency for International Development. 2011 b. Development Assistance and Counter-Extremism: A Guide to Programming. Washington, DC: USAID.Google Scholar
U.S. Army. 2007. U.S. Army Field Manual No. 3-24. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Submit a response


No Comments have been published for this article.