The Impacts of Sarah Palin and Foreign Intervention

Political Research Quaterly – a quantitative political science journal – has two new articles out that readers of Pileus might find noteworthy.  One involves the impact of Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin on the 2008 election.  Specifically, it looks at “how feeling toward Palin exerted an independent effect on vote choice.”  The second examines the impact of foreign military intervention on human rights in friendly, neutral, and hostile target states.

In the Palin piece, Jonathan Knuckey of the University of Central Florida finds that Palin had a relatively large effect on vote choice compared to other vice presidential candidates.  Here is the abstract:

Using data from the American National Election Studies, this article addresses whether the Sarah Palin affected vote choice in 2008. Findings indicate not only that evaluations of Palin were a strong predictor of vote choice—even when controlling for confounding variables—but also that Palin’s effect on vote choice was the largest of any vice presidential candidate in elections examined dating back to 1980. Theoretically, the article offers support for the proposition that a running mate is an important short-term force affecting voting behavior. Substantively, the article suggests that Palin may have contributed to a loss of support among “swing voters.”

This quotation from the piece provides a bit more granularity in terms of the findings:

Given that voters were anything but ambivalent in their feelings toward Palin, a case could be made that Palin both helped and hindered the Republican ticket in 2008. She helped John McCain because she likely shored up his support among the GOP base. But Palin was a lightning rod for Democrats too, who were exceptionally cold in their evaluations. More damaging, perhaps, was that Palin may have eroded support for McCain among critical “swing voters” suchas Independents and moderates.

In the article on intervention, Dursun Peksen of East Carolina University finds that foreign military intevention actually has negative impacts on human rights in target states.  Here is the abstract:

This article examines the effect of foreign armed intervention on human rights conditions in target countries. It is argued that military intervention contributes to the rise of state repression by enhancing the state’s coercive power and encouraging more repressive behavior, especially when it is supportive or neutral toward the target government. Results from bivariate probit models estimated on time-series cross-section data show that supportive and neutral interventions increase the likelihood of extrajudicial killing, disappearance, political imprisonment, and torture. Hostile interventions increase only the probability of political imprisonment. The involvement of an intergovernmental organization or a liberal democracy as an intervener is unlikely to make any major difference in the suggested negative impact of intervention.

Although this is just one study, it should certainly provoke some caution amongst those (liberal interventionists, neoconservatives) who think that military intervention is just the right cure for the disease of “failed” or “bad” states.  The author nicely captures the policy relevance of his work:

The most significant policy implication of the empirical evidence presented previously is that policymakers should take into account the possible negative human rights effect of interventions in weighing the costs and benefits of their decision to intervene. As military intervention becomes a counterproductive policy tool instigating more human rights abuses, the target state will likely experience more violence, humanitarian disasters, and other instabilities given the inherent link between the respect for human rights and the maintenance of peace and security. The negative human rights effect of intervention might also directlyhurt the interests of intervener states and their regional allies due to the possible regional implications of human rights abuses, causing more interstate or civil wars and undermining transnational human rights movements. Accordingly, for a thorough and more accurate assessment of the efficacy of military operations for both intervener and target countries, it is imperative to consider the possible inadvertent human right impacts of intervention even when the use of force accomplishes its initial policy objective(s).

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