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Caught in the Draft: The Effects of Vietnam Draft Lottery Status on Political Attitudes

  • DOI:
  • Published online: 13 May 2011

The 1969 Vietnam draft lottery assigned numbers to birth dates in order to determine which young men would be called to fight in Vietnam. We exploit this natural experiment to examine how draft vulnerability influenced political attitudes. Data are from the Political Socialization Panel Study, which surveyed high school seniors from the class of 1965 before and after the national draft lottery was instituted. Males holding low lottery numbers became more antiwar, more liberal, and more Democratic in their voting compared to those whose high numbers protected them from the draft. They were also more likely than those with safe numbers to abandon the party identification that they had held as teenagers. Trace effects are found in reinterviews from the 1990s. Draft number effects exceed those for preadult party identification and are not mediated by military service. The results show how profoundly political attitudes can be transformed when public policies directly affect citizens' lives.

Corresponding author
Robert S. Erikson is Professor of Political Science, Columbia University, 7th Floor, International Affairs Building, 420 W. 118th Street, New York, NY 10027 (
Laura Stoker is Associate Professor of Political Science, University of California at Berkeley, 778 Barrows Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720 (
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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
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