International Studies Quarterly, 65(4),2021, pp. 919-28.
Recent scholarship has fruitfully investigated the effect of international organization (IO) approval on public support for military intervention. Following Jentleson and Britton (1998), scholars argue that IO approval does not increase already high public support for “foreign policy restraint” (FPR) operations intended to coerce “aggressively threatening” opponents, including terrorists. We challenge this argument, focusing on public support for contributing to military coalitions. The public may wonder whether leaders are sincere when they frame a coalition military operation as having FPR objectives; this may lead the public to put a premium on multilateral validation. We also question the common argument that UNSC approval necessarily has a greater positive effect on public support for intervention than approval from regional IOs. Approval from broad-based regional IOs with a diverse membership, such as the African Union (AU), may be just as consequential. Data from survey experiments that we conducted in three countries confirm our principal hypotheses: (1) IO approval consistently increases public support for contributing to military coalitions even in ostensible counterterrorism cases; and (2) the UN and AU approval effects are of comparable magnitude. These findings expand our theoretical understanding of the conditions under which IO approval can increase public support for military intervention.