April 29, 2020
Political science professors publish in top journal
Michael Flynn and Carla Martinez Machain, associate professors in the political science department, co-authored an article published in the American Political Science Review, the highest impact journal in the field of political science. The paper, "Outside the Wire: U.S. Military Deployments and Public Opinions in Host States," is included in the May 2020 issue of the journal.
In this research, Flynn and Martinez Machain conducted public opinion surveys of attitudes toward the U.S. and the U.S. military in countries where the U.S. has large non-combat deployments. They drew representative samples from a series of 14 countries in Europe, Australia, the Middle East and Asia. They also traveled to Latin America and Europe to conduct in-person fieldwork and interviews. Ultimately their findings highlight the complexities of the interactions between U.S. military personnel and residents of the host country.
Contrary to popular wisdom, interactions between U.S. service personnel and host-state residents correlate with both positive and negative attitude formation, though the relationship between contact and positive attitudes is larger than negative attitudes. This research was funded by a $1.2 million Department of Defense Minerva Research Initiative grant that they received along with their collaborators at Boise State University and the University of Texas, Austin.
Martinez Machain and Flynn describe this work as important because "these deployments have been central to U.S. foreign policy for 70 years, yet we have little systematic research on the social, political and economic consequences for the host country. A lot of received wisdom says that foreign publics view these deployments negatively, but usually these views are based on particularly egregious instances of factors like crime or pollution. While such cases are important, they don't necessarily represent the norm, if we step back and think about how hundreds of thousands of U.S. personnel are interacting with millions of host-country residents on a daily basis."
This publication is a small part of their broader project, and they look forward to continuing this important thread of research by studying other issues and geographic areas, and also looking at how these opinions vary over time. They currently have surveys in the field to assess the latter question. They note that "it will be especially interesting to see how opinions of the U.S. government and military will change between the pre-coronavirus surveys and those that we are now conducting during the pandemic. This will allow us to answer questions about how a global challenge like this is impacting perceptions of the U.S., trust in local government, and whether changes in public opinion towards different U.S. groups respond in similar ways."