Domestic Terrorism in Democratic States: Understanding and Addressing Minority Grievances

  • Citation: Ghatak, Sambuddha, Aaron Gold, and Brandon C. Prins. “Domestic Terrorism in Democratic States: Understanding and Addressing Minority Grievances.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 63, no. 2 (February 2019): 439–67.
    • Topics:
    • Conflict and Security
    • Keywords:
    • domestic terrorism
    • exclusion
    • economic discrimination
    • democracy
    • rule of law

Scholars continue to disagree on the relationship between regime type and political violence, perhaps because the empirical evidence remains contradictory. To date, most studies generally explore the direct relationship between democracy and terrorism. Yet, we think the effect of regime type on terrorism is conditional on the presence of politically excluded groups whose grievances motivate them to challenge the state. We need to take into account both willingness/grievance and opportunity to understand political violence. Using a global data set of domestic terrorism between 1990 and 2012, we find that different regime-associated features of democracy relate differently to domestic terrorism. Higher levels of the rule of law tend to decrease terrorism, whereas electoral democracies tend to experience more domestic terrorism. However, domestic terrorism increases in every form of democracy in the presence of political exclusion. As such, an effective counterterrorism policy must address underlying grievances as democratization by itself may actually drive domestic terrorism up.

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