Political Behavior

, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp 989–1015 | Cite as

Community, Authorities, and Support for Vigilantism: Experimental Evidence

  • Daniel Zizumbo-ColungaEmail author
Original Paper


Vigilante justice challenges the state’s monopoly over the use of violence and as such has come to the attention of a growing body of political scholars. However, still little is known about the circumstances that foster support for citizens circumventing the state to confront crime directly. I argue that citizens’ perceptions of a trusting community, on the one hand, and an untrustworthy law enforcement, on the other, jointly influence their support for this kind of behavior. I test these hypotheses using a lab-in-the-field experiment in Mexico, a case in which the expansion of vigilante organizations has posed a serious challenge to the state. I find that participants are more supportive of a vigilante action when those considering said action are described to be inserted within a trustworthy community. Furthermore, I find that this effect is moderated by the described trustworthiness of law enforcement. These results contribute to our understanding of the emergence of vigilantism, and how trust in authorities can moderate the normative expression of social capital.


Support for vigilante justice Vigilante justice Vigilante Trust Mexico Latin America Behavior Lynching Violence Crime Legitimacy Police Attitudes Social capital Interpersonal trust Justice 



Thanks to Elizabeth J. Zechmeister and Cindy D. Kam for their comments during the development of the project. Thanks to Mitchel A. Seligson, Jonathan Hiskey, Michael Bess, Matthew Singer, Kaitlen Cassell and Mollie J. Cohen for valuable comments to previous versions of this paper. Thanks to Sofia Rivera Aragon, Rolando Diaz Loving, Isabel Reyes Lagunes, and the Department of Psychology of the National Autonomous University of Mexico for their participation in the project. Finally, thanks to Karla Castro Osorio, the University of the South and Luz Soto Mendez for their invaluable assistance during the field work. All remaining errors are, of course, my own.

Supplementary material

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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Drug Policy Program, Center for Research and Teaching in EconomicsNational Council of Science and TechnologyAguascalientesMexico

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