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Winning the War of Words: Selling the War on Terror from Afghanistan to Iraq
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2 Theory and Methods THE MAIN PURPOSE of this investigation is to explain how President George W. Bush used framing and rhetoric in attempts to gain support for pursuing war in Afghani- stan and Iraq. In essence, the point is to show that presidential speeches exploited the public’s judgmental biases in order to set the foreign policy agenda and market risky changes from the status quo until those policies were implemented. According to prospect theory tenets, people exhibit judgment bias if they are risk-acceptant when faced with a situation framed as a loss and risk-averse when that situation is framed as a gain. This study will show that presidential rhetoric, as seen in terms of loss framing and loss domain rhetoric, has greater linkage with changes in public support for war than gain framing. In that manner, prospect theory provides a better explanation for this connection than expected utility theory. According to expected utility theory, changes in the dependent variable, public support, should correlate to changes in gain framing, and gain framing should dominate the presi- dent’s public rhetoric during the marketing stages of potential policy changes. However, the evidence demonstrates that the opposite occurred. Prospect theory represents a theoretical development that accounts for how risk attitude alters decision making and violates expected utility model assump- tions. Past experiments and studies have shown prospect theory to be mostly suc- cessful in explaining decision making behavior under risk, with respect to reference points, domain, framing effects, and loss aversion. 1 This chapter will cover the relevant discussions on prospect theory, framing effects, presidential rhetoric, agenda setting, and war and public opinion. Prospect theory research tradition has dictated that a more complete descrip- tion of the evolution of prospect theory and its inherent framing effects requires an explanation of how the theory emerged as the major challenger to rational choice