The Comparative Legitimacy of Arms Exports - A Conjoint Experiment in Germany and France

Abstract

Despite fierce politicization and heated public debates in arms-exporting democracies, systematic research on mass public preferences on arms trade is lacking. Combining political economy models of arms trade with the literatures on trade preferences and foreign policy attitudes, we argue that citizens trade off economic incentives, strategic interests and moral considerations when assessing arms trade and that deeply rooted ‘strategic cultures’ lead to differences in citizen preferences between countries. To derive the implicit weighting of different features of arms trade, we draw on population-representative conjoint survey experiments (N=6617), fielded in November/December 2020 in two of the global top-5 exporting countries of major arms - Germany and France. We find that both country populations show structured preferences towards arms exports which predominantly center around their moral repercussions. However, German respondents place more weight on moral consequences and, compared to French respondents, a larger share is in fundamental opposition. We conclude that these diverging preferences potentially conflict with plans of a common European defense and security policy.

Markus Freitag
Markus Freitag
Junior Data Analyst