Public opinion is one of the most important aspects of a democracy as it is a great indicator of democracy at work. In order to establish if the opinion of the public is taken into consideration in times of war, first it is crucial to determine if policymakers are responsive to public opinion in times of peace. The Vietnam and Iraq War are two of the more polarizing wars that The United States has been a part of in recent years and sheds light on the complexity of public opinion. Studying the relationship of mass casualties on public opinion is a topic that is lacking extensive research by scholars yet is important to pinpoint exactly when and why public opinion deteriorates in these two wars. I ask the question, Do mass casualties and the American media sway U.S. public opinion to dictate the escalation or de-escalation of a war? Answering this question allows the reader and the public to gain a more holistic understanding of how the public reacts to mass casualties in a war. In order to answer this question, I utilize Gallup Polls and correlated data of decreasing public opinion in relation to mass casualties in both wars. This comparative case study will allow the reader to see these that trends are not simply a one-time anomaly, but a commonality that can be traced in both wars. Past scholars have studied public opinion from its roots in the 1920’s and have come to similar results that will be shown throughout my Independent Study as I build upon their research to gain a deeper understanding of the correlation between mass casualties, how the media presents this information, and a deterioration of public opinion.


Valdez, John

Second Advisor

Ng, Margaret


Political Science; History


Arts and Humanities | Social and Behavioral Sciences

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2020 Tyler Iversen