Skip to main content


Log in

Electoral terms and terrorism

Public Choice Aims and scope Submit manuscript


Many terror attacks occur at the beginning of electoral terms. We present a game theoretical model with incomplete information to account for this empirical pattern. Both terrorists and governments can be of weak or strong types. We find that the risk of terror attacks is highest at the beginning of electoral terms, because striking early allows the terrorists to collect valuable information about the government’s type, and also because terrorists know that even initially weak governments sometimes retaliate to show toughness closer to an upcoming election. The model’s predictions are consistent with anecdotal evidence.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Institutional subscriptions


  • Azam, J.-P., & Thelen, V. (2008). The roles of foreign aid and education in the war on terror. Public Choice, 135, 375–397.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bali, V. (2007). Terror and elections: lessons from Spain. Electoral Studies, 26, 669–687.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Barros, C., Passos, J., & Gil-Alana, L. (2006). The timing of ETA terrorist attacks. Journal of Policy Modeling, 28, 335–346.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Basuchoudhary, A., & Shughart, W. F. II. (2010). On ethnic conflict and the origins of transnational terrorism. Defence and Peace Economics, 21, 65–87.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Berman, E. (2009). Radical, religious, and violent: the new economics of terrorism. Cambridge: MIT Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Berman, E., & Laitin, D. (2008). Religion, terrorism and public goods: testing the club model. Journal of Public Economics, 92, 1942–1967.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Berrebi, C., & Klor, E. (2006). On terrorism and electoral outcomes: theory and evidence from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 50, 899–925.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bueno de Mesquita, E. (2005). Conciliation, counterterrorism, and patterns of terrorist violence. International Organization, 59, 145–176.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bueno de Mesquita, E. (2007). Politics and the suboptimal provision of counterterror. International Organization, 61, 9–36.

    Google Scholar 

  • Buenrostro, L., Dhillon, A., & Wooders, M. (2007). Protests and reputation. International Journal of Game Theory, 35, 353–377.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cauley, J., & Im, E. I. (1988). Intervention policy analysis of skyjackings and other terrorist incidents. American Economic Review, 78, 27–31.

    Google Scholar 

  • Crettez, B., & Deloche, R. (2010). Terrorism, key assets, and critical infrastructures: to protect or to rebuild? That is the question. Public Choice, 144, 105–118.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Enders, W., & Sandler, T. (1993). The effectiveness of antiterrorism policies: A vector-autoregression-intervention analysis. American Political Science Review, 87, 829–844.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Enders, W., & Sandler, T. (2006). The political economy of terrorism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Frey, B. S., & Rohner, D. (2007). Protecting cultural monuments against terrorism. Defence and Peace Economics, 18, 245–252.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Frey, B. S., Luechinger, S., & Stutzer, A. (2009). The life satisfaction approach to valuing public goods: the case of terrorism. Public Choice, 138, 317–345.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gassebner, M., Jong-A-Pin, R., & Mierau, J. (2008). Terrorism and electoral accountability: one strike, you’re out! Economics Letters, 100, 126–129.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gould, E., & Klor, E. (2010). Does terrorism work? Forthcoming in the Quarterly Journal of Economics.

  • GTD. (2009). Global terrorism dataset. Dataset.

  • Horne, A. (2006). A savage war of peace: Algeria 1954–1962. New York: New York Review of Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Iannaccone, L. R., & Berman, E. (2006). Religious extremism: the good, the bad, and the deadly. Public Choice, 128, 109–129.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Intelligence and Security Committee. (2009). Could 7/7 have been prevented? Review of the intelligence on the London terrorist attacks on 7 July 2005. UK civil service report.

  • Jaeger, D., & Paserman, D. (2008). The cycle of violence? An empirical analysis of fatalities in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. American Economic Review, 98, 1591–1604.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Karol, D., & Miguel, E. (2007). The electoral cost of war: Iraq casualties and the 2004 U.S. presidential election. Journal of Politics, 69, 633–648.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kreps, D., & Wilson, R. (1982). Reputation and imperfect information. Journal of Economic Theory, 27, 253–279.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Krieger, T., & Meierrieks, D. (2010). What causes terrorism? Public Choice (forthcoming)

  • Krueger, A. B., & Maleckova, J. (2003). Education, poverty and terrorism: is there a causal connection? Journal of Economic Perspectives, 17, 119–144.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kurrild-Klitgaard, P., Justesen, M., & Klemmensen, R. (2006). The political economy of freedom, democracy and transnational terrorism. Public Choice, 128, 289–315.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mickolous, E. F., Sandler, T., & Murdock, J. M. (2007). International terrorism: attributes of terrorist events, 1968–2006 (ITERATE). Vinyard Software. Dunn Loring.

  • Montalvo, J. (2010). Voting after the bombing: a natural experiment on the effect of terrorist attacks on democratic elections. Review of Economics and Statistics (forthcoming).

  • Pape, R. (2003). The strategic logic of suicide terrorism. American Political Science Review, 97, 343–361.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rohner, D., & Frey, B. S. (2007). Blood and ink! The common-interest-game between terrorists and the media. Public Choice, 133, 129–145.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Shughart, W. F. II. (2006). An analytical history of terrorism, 1945–2000. Public Choice, 128, 7–39.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Siqueira, K., & Sandler, T. (2007). Terrorist backlash, terrorism mitigation, and policy delegation. Journal of Public Economics, 91, 1800–1815.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Time Magazine. (2004). Defenseless targets. Time Magazine, 164, No. 10.

  • Zussman, A., & Zussman, N. (2006). Assassinations: evaluating the effectiveness of an Israeli counterterrorism policy using stock market data. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 20, 193–206.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Dominic Rohner.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Hodler, R., Rohner, D. Electoral terms and terrorism. Public Choice 150, 181–193 (2012).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


JEL Classification