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Tyrants and Terrorism: Why Some Autocrats are Terrorized While Others are Not

Conventional wisdom suggests that reports of terrorism should be sparse in dictatorships, both because such violence is unlikely to result in policy change and because it is difficult to get reliable information on attacks. Yet, there is variance in the number of terrorist attacks reported in autocracies. Why? We argue that differences in the audience costs produced by dictatorships explain why some nondemocracies experience more terrorism than others. Terrorists are more likely to expect a response in dictatorships that generate high domestic audience costs. Using data from multiple terrorism databases, we find empirical evidence that dictatorships generating higher audience costs—military dictatorships, single-party dictatorships, and dynastic monarchies—experience as much terrorism as democracies, while autocracies generating lower audience costs—personalist dictatorships and non-dynastic monarchies—face fewer attacks than their democratic counterparts.

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Conrad, Courtenay R., and Justin Conrad, Joseph K. Young. 2014. "Tyrants and Terrorism: Why Some Autocrats are Terrorized While Others are Not." International Studies Quarterly 58 (September).  https://academic.oup.com/isq/article/58/3/539/1795289

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