“Rally Around the Flag” Effect. How and Why Support of the Authorities Grows During International Conflicts and Tragedies?

“Rally Around the Flag” Effect. How and Why Support of the Authorities Grows During International Conflicts and Tragedies?

Kazun A.D.,

Cand. Sci. (Soc.), Senior Research Fellow at Laboratory for Studies in Economic Sociology, Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Social Sciences, HSE University, adkazun@hse.ru

elibrary_id: 822971 | ORCID: 0000-0002-9633-2776 | RESEARCHER_ID: K-6835-2015

DOI: 10.17976/jpps/2017.01.12

For citation:

Kazun A.D. “Rally Around the Flag” Effect. How and Why Support of the Authorities Grows During International Conflicts and Tragedies? – Polis. Political Studies. 2017. No. 1. P. 136-146. (In Russ.). https://doi.org/10.17976/jpps/2017.01.12


Numerous studies of support of national leaders indicate that the President’s approval ratings increase substantially during international conflicts and tragedies. In such a way, the Falklands War greatly influenced the popularity of Margaret Thatcher. The Gulf War led to a significant increase in the public approval of George H.W. Bush, and the terrorist attack of 9/11 was a push for greater support for George W. Bush. The article analyzes the phenomenon of consolidation of the population around a national leader in times of crisis, called “rally around the flag”. We systematize the literature on the subject and draw conclusions on a number of fundamental premises of the theory. Thus, the circumstances under which this effect takes place must meet the following criteria: relevance to society as a whole, the international level, suddenness of the event, the direct participation of the President in solving the problem and the existence of personified “other”. The emergence of rally effect is closely connected with characteristics of media coverage of the issues and patriotism of the population. The article also notes that, despite the considerable scale that this effect can reach (up to 35% of approval rating), the duration of its preservation is not so large (up to six months). It reduces the temptation for the authorities to provoke conflicts with the purpose of acquiring more public support. 

rally around the flag; public opinion; consolidation; approval ratings; president; international conflict; war; terrorism.


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