Do public opinion dynamics play an important role in understanding conflict trajectories between democratic governments and other rival groups? The authors interpret several theories of opinion dynamics as competing clusters of contemporaneous causal links connoting reciprocity, accountability, and credibility. They translate these clusters into four distinct Bayesian structural time series models fit to events data from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with variables for U.S. intervention and Jewish public opinion about prospects for peace. A credibility model, allowing Jewish public opinion to influence U.S., Palestinian, and Israeli behavior within a given month, fits best. More pacific Israeli opinion leads to more immediate Palestinian hostility toward Israelis. This response's direction suggests a negative feedback mechanism in which low-level conflict is maintained and momentum toward either all-out war or dramatic peace is slowed. In addition, a forecasting model including Jewish public opinion is shown to forecast ex ante better than a model without this variable.
- Bayesian inference
- Conflict dynamics