Soyoung Lee is a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science, Stanford University. Her dissertation project explores why people are willing to go to war over certain issues but not others, when an issue becomes symbolic to the nation, and how this process affects international conflict. Her research agenda also includes topics of nationalism, international rivalries, and alliance politics. She plans to use survey experiments to explore what conditions determine issue salience, or public perception of the value of an issue at stake.
People are often willing to go to war over territory that has little strategic or economic value. They are also willing to fight over historical apologies and deaths of co-nationals that do not directly impact their livelihood. Yet the amount of value placed on such abstract issues is puzzling, especially when considering how little willingness there is to fight for issues that do have clear material value. For example, trade treaties can directly affect an individual's employment, but they rarely invoke as much public attention or outrage. So why is there more public willingness to fight over issues that are abstract than over issues that are economically more valuable? More broadly, when do international issues become valuable to the nation and worth undertaking costly actions for?