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Time-sharing Experiments for the Social Sciences, TESS2028 Johns, Civilian Casualties and Support for War




Johns, R. (2021, June 15). Time-sharing Experiments for the Social Sciences, TESS2028 Johns, Civilian Casualties and Support for War.


TESS conducts general population experiments on behalf of investigators throughout the social sciences. General population experiments allow investigators to assign representative subject populations to experimental conditions of their choosing. Faculty and graduate students from the social sciences and related fields (such as law and public health) propose experiments. A comprehensive, on-line submission and peer review process screens proposals for the importance of their contribution to science and society.

This experiment examines how the social/political conditions of a target country and the number of estimated casualties affect the support for attacking the target country. This project includes two vignette-based survey experiments. Each involves random assignment to a relatively large number of conditions (i.e., different vignettes): 12 in the case of Experiment 1 and 16 in the case of Experiment 2:

Experiment 1-- A. Target state is hypothetical. B. Variables manipulated: political nature of target state (democracy or dictatorship); dominant faith of target state (Islamic or Christian); and anticipated civilian death toll (no mention or 100 or 3,000). C. Number of total conditions: 12.

Experiment 2 -- A. Target state is Iran. B. Variables manipulated: anticipated civilian death toll (50 or 500 or 5,000 or 50,000); framing of civilian casualties ('civilian casualties' or 'innocent Iranians dying, many of them women and children'); and anticipated success (delay nuclear program in Iran by a year or delay by 10 years). C. Number of total conditions: 16.

The order of the two experiments is randomized across respondents (e.g., half doing Experiment 1 first and half doing Experiment 2 first).

Data File

Cases: 2072
Variables: 49
Weight Variable: POST

Data Collection


Original Survey (Instrument)

TESS2028 Original Survey

Funded By

National Science Foundation

Collection Procedures

Respondents are randomly assigned to two experimental manipulations:

Experiment 1:
"Today the American government has presented evidence to the United Nations that Country A has been developing a secret nuclear weapons program which it intends to use against its neighbors in the region. The government is making the case for air strikes against factories associated with this program. Professor Andrew Lincoln, a leading expert on military strategy, has estimated that the planned American air strikes would result in the deaths of around [one hundred/ three thousand civilians/sentence omitted]. The [democratically elected President/unelected dictator] of Country A, a predominantly [Christian/Islamic] country of around 20 million people, has strenuously denied the American government's allegations."

Respondents are then asked: A) On a scale from 0 (strongly oppose) to 6 (strongly support), how do you feel about British/American air strikes in this case? B) And if you had to choose 'oppose' or 'support', which would you go for?

Experiment 2:
"Western governments, including the American, have long expressed concerns about Iran's nuclear ambitions. In particular, they claim that Iran has secret facilities that are being used to develop nuclear weapons. Iran has consistently denied that these claims are true but, according to the American government, Iran is not far away from being able to launch a nuclear strike. The American government is considering air strikes against the Bushehr nuclear facility, which it says is producing the nuclear materials necessary for Iran's weapons program. Since this facility is in a populated area, air strikes are likely to result in [civilian casualties/innocent Iranians dying, many of them women and children]. Professor Anna Knott, an expert on the region, estimates the likely civilian death toll at around [50/500/5,000/50,000] people. She adds that air strikes are likely to slow down Iran's nuclear weapons program by [one year/ten years]."

Respondents are then asked: A) On a scale from 0 (strongly oppose) to 6 (strongly support), how do you feel about British/American air strikes in this case? B) In addition to air strikes, there are other options open to the US/British government. Here are various courses of action -- please choose the one that you think the government should follow: invade Iran to remove the regime; air strikes (as described above); impose sanctions on Iran (e.g. stopping the country from selling oil); negotiate to try to persuade Iran to stop developing nuclear weapons; nothing -- Iran is not a threat.

Sampling Procedures

TESS provides investigators an opportunity to run Internet-based experiments on a random, probability-based sample of the population. To achieve a representative sample, we contract with GfK (formerly Knowledge Networks), which conducts surveys using its KnowledgePanel. KnowledgePanel is a nationally representative, probability-based web panel based on dual-frame sampling that combines traditional random-digit-dialing telephone surveying techniques with an address-based technique that allows the sample to be representative of cell-phone-only households as well as those with land-lines. Additional data and study materials can be downloaded here.

Principal Investigators

Robert Johns, University of Essex


For any additional information regarding TESS data, please visit the original website here

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