A joint project of the Graduate School, Peabody College, and the Jean & Alexander Heard Library

Title page for ETD etd-06192015-143924

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Utych, Stephen Michael
Author's Email Address stephen.m.utych@vanderbilt.edu
URN etd-06192015-143924
Title A Matter of Life and Death: Essays on the Value of Human Life in Politics
Degree PhD
Department Political Science
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Cindy Kam Committee Chair
John Geer Committee Member
Joshua Clinton Committee Member
Neil Malhotra Committee Member
  • casualties
  • foreign policy
  • harm
  • language
  • rhetoric
  • language in politics
  • political psychology
Date of Defense 2015-06-09
Availability unrestricted
Many political decisions have actual life or death consequences. I examine how rhetoric used to discuss these life or death consequences, along with personality predispositions, influence political attitudes. In my first chapter, I examine how politicians talk, or do not talk, about death in floor speeches. I find that supporters and opponents of war discuss casualties of war differently and that this behavior is strategic and has consequences for public opinion. In my second chapter, I look at why individuals respond differently to casualties of war. I find that the context matters, and in certain types of conflict individuals are generally more accepting of war casualties. I also find that individual traits matter. I develop a measure for individual attitudes towards harm, and find that this predicts tolerance for casualties of war and other policies that are frequently framed as life or death decisions. In my third chapter, I focus on how two types of language, sanitized and dehumanizing language, influence foreign policy attitudes. Sanitized language serves to mute the emotional response to casualties of war, leading to more hawkish foreign policy attitudes. Dehumanizing language devalues the lives of dehumanized groups, again leading to more hawkish attitudes. In my last chapter, I examine how dehumanization works in the realm of immigration policy. I find that immigrants are frequently dehumanized, and that the use of dehumanizing language leads to harsher attitudes towards immigrants. This effect is caused by an increase in both anger and disgust towards the dehumanized group.
  Filename       Size       Approximate Download Time (Hours:Minutes:Seconds) 
 28.8 Modem   56K Modem   ISDN (64 Kb)   ISDN (128 Kb)   Higher-speed Access 
  Utych.pdf 1.33 Mb 00:06:10 00:03:10 00:02:46 00:01:23 00:00:07

Browse All Available ETDs by ( Author | Department )

If you have more questions or technical problems, please Contact LITS.