Saving Nation's Face: A Comparative Investigation of Rally-round-the-Flag Periods in Four Democratic Countries

Yuval Feinstein, University of Haifa

In democracies, periods of “rally-round-the-flag” that boost public support for governments can have profound implications for policymaking because they may lead policymakers to make decisions that otherwise they would be more reluctant to take, such as to start a war, restrict certain civil rights, or decide to hold the next national elections earlier than expected. The extant research has examined rally periods in wartime, focusing primarily on rally periods in the United States. The current study makes the first attempt to take a comparative, cross-national look at the rally-round-the-flag phenomenon during both war and peace. It examines rally periods in four countries—the United States, Britain, Australia, and Germany. The argument advanced in this paper suggests that a rally-round-the-flag effect emerges when the public widely perceives an event as having positive and greatly desired implications to the nations' symbolic value. I develop this argument by creating a typology that includes three types of rallies in the focal countries in the past several decades. The first two types—which I label "status maintenance by fighting aggressors" and "claiming moral leadership during international turmoil"—were already introduced in my previous research on rallies in the United States that was published in the Social Science History journal, but the current study demonstrates their relevance to other countries. The third type of rallies—labeled "restoring national honor by confronting demons of the past"—is introduced here for the first time.

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 Presented in Session 166. Comparative analysis of political institutions