A Rand study answers the question a young Marine asked me on continued citizen support when the going gets rough for the troops on the ground or will the news "disturb the citizens at their breakfast". "Americans' opinions went on a war footing following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States, often matching levels of support for military action seen during World War II, according to the study that synthesizes findings from about 100 public opinion surveys."“
The perceived importance of the stakes was the key belief predicting support for the operation,” said RAND analyst Eric Larson, the report's lead author.
Other major factors influencing a person's likelihood of backing a military operation include: identifying with the same political party as the president of the United States, the occurrence of battle casualties, and beliefs about the prospects for an operation's success, according to the study.
Larson said that U.S. support for the Iraq mission became “far more stalwart” after 16 soldiers were killed when an Army helicopter was shot down in November 2003 by insurgents near Fallujah. This is in contrast to public sentiment after the infamous “Black Hawk Down” battle in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1993 that killed 18 U.S. troops and wounded many more.
Polls showed a “stiffening” of public support for military action after the Iraq incident, while polling data showed that Americans preferred pulling out of Somalia by 2-to-1 margins even before the Mogadishu firefight. That sentiment strengthened after the battle, according to the study.
RAND | News Release | Americans Will Back Military Action Overseas If They Believe The United States Has "Important Stakes" in a Battle