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Autocracies and Terrorism: Conditioning Effects of Authoritarian Regime Type on Terrorist Attacks


  • The authors would like to thank Jim Walsh, Gretchen Casper, Joe Wright, Navin Bapat, Kanisha Bond, and the four anonymous reviewers at AJPS who provided useful feedback. Work was supported in part by NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, Grant No. DGE-0750756. Data and replication files are available at and from the authors.


Although empirical research has generally demonstrated that democracies experience more terrorism than autocracies, research suggests that this depends upon complex institutional differences that go beyond the democracy-autocracy divide. This study examines these differences, linking institutions to strategies of coercion and co-optation. Using zero-inflated negative binomial regression estimations on Geddes’ (2003) autocratic regime-type data for 161 countries between 1970 and 2006, we find that single-party authoritarian regimes consistently experience less domestic and international terrorism relative to military autocracies and democracies. This finding is robust to a large number of specifications, underscoring the explanatory power of regime type for predicting terrorism. Our explanation for these findings is that party-based autocracies have a wider range of coercion and co-option strategies that they can employ to address grievance and dissent than do other, more strategically restricted, regimes.