Skip to main content

Ethnic inclusion, democracy, and terrorism

Abstract

Previous research has shown that ethnic exclusion and restricted political access can motivate ethnic groups to resort to violence. Although these links are better established for civil wars or conventional conflict, we believe that the same logic should be applicable to ethnic terrorism as well. If so, can reforms towards greater ethnic inclusion also reduce terrorist risks? We argue that reform and changes towards greater ethnic inclusion and democratization should induce substitution and reduce the volume of terrorist violence, even if attacks by splinter groups may persist. We develop propositions on terrorist attack frequency, given group characteristics and accommodation. We take advantage of the large changes towards democratization, decreased discrimination, and increased ethnic accommodation since the third wave of democratization and the end of the Cold War, as well as new data linking domestic terrorist organization in the Global Terrorism Data to specific ethnic groups in the Ethnic Power Relations data. Our group-level analyses suggest considerable support for a decline in terrorism following accommodation.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5

Notes

  1. http://www.lefigaro.fr/flash-actu/2014/06/25/97,001-20140625FILWWW00292-corse-le-flnc-annonce-lacher-les-armes.php.

  2. Basuchoudhary and Shughart (2010) examine how a perception based measure of ethnic tensions influence transnational terrorism. Although this will reflect variation in ethnic relations and terrorism, it does not allow assessing to what extent political status may drive ethnic tensions.

  3. We exclude transnational attacks since we focus on how ethnic exclusion and accommodation influence domestic terrorist events. The total number of ethnic groups varies across years, and can change if new independent states emerge (e.g., through decolonization or secession), or the EPR data classify a change in ethnic distinctions within a country.

  4. We have also considered possible non-linear effects of regime type, but found no evidence that this specification changed the main results or notably improved the fit of the model. We provide these results in the Supplementary Appendix.

  5. According to the EPR codebook, “an ethnic group is politically relevant if either at least one significant political actor claims to represent the interests of that group in the national political arena or if group members are systematically and intentionally discriminated against in the domain of public politics”; see http://www.icr.ethz.ch/data/epr/EPR-2014_Codebook.pdf.

  6. Alternatively, democracy as competitive political institutions may be less relevant to terrorism than other forms of liberal constitutions such as the rule of law and economic freedom (see Basuchoudhary and Shughart 2010 for evidence on transnational terrorism).

  7. We show in the appendix that there is some evidence for an interaction between democracy and group size, such that larger groups are less likely to use terrorism in democracies (the effect turns negative when relative group size is above the mean, i.e., 0.19). This is consistent with a logic wherein the impact of democracy varies depending on the potential power that a group can wield. However, a fuller analysis would need to consider other factors, such as electoral systems/representation and opportunities for conventional violence.

  8. Our argument here is not that changes in accommodation are exogenous or unrelated to past terrorist activity by the group, but we simply try to evaluate the consequences of political status on motivation and attacks. It is entirely possible that terrorism by a group may push a government to provide accommodation, but it seems implausible that anticipated lower terrorism should promote concessions. Accommodation could conceivably increase terrorist activity if terrorist organizations were largely insensitive to any gains in status or perceived that more terrorism could bring yet larger future concessions. Our results, however, do not support this.

  9. In the Supplementary Appendix we provide additional results where we let transitions interact with group size and again find some evidence of interaction. The tipping point is much lower for the sample excluding Asia, and the marginal effect turns negative for groups with a relative size above 0.05.

References

  • Alison, P. D., & Waterman, R. P. (2002). Fixed-effects negative binomial regression models. Sociological Methodology, 32(1), 247–265.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Asal, V., & Phillips, B. J. (2016). What explains ethnic organizational violence? Evidence from Eastern Europe and Russia. Conflict Management and Peace Science, forthcoming.

  • Asal, V., & Rethemeyer, R. K. (2008). The nature of the beast: Organizational structures and the lethality of terrorist attacks. Journal of Politics, 70(2), 437–449.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ash, K. (2016). Representative democracy and fighting domestic terrorism. Terrorism and Political Violence, 28(1), 114–134.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Basuchoudhary, S., & Shughart, W. F., II. (2010). On ethnic conflict and the origins of transnational terrorism. Defence and Peace Economics, 21(1), 65–87.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bove, V., & Böhmelt, T. (2016). Does immigration induce terrorism? Journal of Politics, 78(2), 572–588.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cederman, L-E., Gleditsch, K. S., & Wucherpfennig. J. (2015a). The diffusion of inclusion. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association.

  • Cederman, L.-E., Gleditsch, K. S., & Buhaug, H. (2013). Inequality, grievances, and civil war. New York: Cambridge University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Cederman, L-E, Gleditsch, K.S., & Wucherpfennig, J. (2016). Predicting the decline of ethnic civil war: Was Gurr right and for the right reasons? Journal of Peace Research, forthcoming.

  • Cederman, L.-E., Hug, S., Schädel, A., & Wucherpfennig, J. (2015b). Territorial autonomy in the shadow of conflict: Too little, too late? American Political Science Review, 109(2), 354–370.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cederman, L.-E., Wimmer, A., & Min, B. (2010). Why do ethnic groups rebel? New data and analysis. World Politics, 62(1), 87–119.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Chenoweth, E. (2010). Democratic competition and terrorist activity. Journal of Politics, 72(1), 16–30.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Chenoweth, E. (2013). Terrorism and democracy. Annual Review of Political Science, 16, 355–378.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Choi, S.-W., & Piazza, J. A. (2016). Ethnic groups, political exclusion and domestic terrorism. Defence and Peace Economics, 27(1), 37–63.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Clauset, A., & Gleditsch, K. S. (2012). The developmental dynamics of terrorist organizations. PLoS One, 7(11), e48633.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Clauset, A., Young, M., & Gleditsch, K. S. (2007). On the frequency of severe terrorist events. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 51(1), 1–31.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Crenshaw, M. (1981). The causes of terrorism. Comparative Politics, 13(4), 379–399.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • de la Calle, L. (2015). Nationalist violence in postwar Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • DeNardo, J. (1985). Power in numbers: The strategy of protest and rebellion. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Engene, J. O. (1994). Europeisk terrrorisme: Vold, state og legitimitet. Oslo: TANO.

    Google Scholar 

  • Engene, J. O. (2004). Terrorism in Western Europe: Explaining the trends since 1950. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

    Google Scholar 

  • Engene, J. O. (2007). Five decades of terrorism in Europe: The TWEED dataset. Journal of Peace Research, 44(1), 109–121.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Eubank, W. L., & Weinberg, L. (1994). Does democracy encourage terrorism? Terrorism and Political Violence, 6(4), 417–435.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fazi, A. (2014). The multilevel politics of accommodation and the non-constitutional moment: Lessons from Corsica. In J. Lluch (Ed.), Constitutionalism and the politics of accommodation in multinational democracies (pp. 132–155). Basingstoke: Palgrave.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Findley, M. G., & Young, J. K. (2012). Terrorism and civil war: A spatial and temporal approach to a conceptual problem. Perspectives on Politics, 10(2), 285–305.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gelman, A., & Hill, J. (2007). Data analysis using regression and multilevel/hierarchical models. New York: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gleditsch, K. S. (2002). Expanded trade and GDP data, 1946–1999. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 46(5), 712–724.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gleditsch, K. S., & Hegre, H. (2014). Regime type and political transition in civil war. In K. DeRoen & E. Newman (Eds.), Routledge handbook of civil wars (pp. 145–156). London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gleditsch, N.-P., Wallensteen, P., Erikson, M., Sollenberg, M., & Strand, H. (2002). Armed conflict, 1945–1999: A new dataset. Journal of Peace Research, 39(5), 615–637.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gleditsch, K. S., & Ward, M. D. (2006). The diffusion of democracy and the international context of democratization. International Organization, 60(4), 911–933.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gonçalves, S., & White, H. (2005). Bootstrap standard error estimates for linear regression. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 100(471), 970–979.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Green, W. (2005). Functional form and heterogeneity in models for count data. Foundations and trends in econometrics, 1, 113–218.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gurr, T. R. (1994). Peoples against states: Ethnopolitical conflict and the changing world system. International Studies Quarterly, 38(3), 347–377.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gurr, T. R. (2000). Ethnic warfare on the wane. Foreign Affairs, 79, 52–64.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Horowitz, D. L. (2014). Ethnic power sharing: Three big problems. Journal of Democracy, 25(2), 5–20.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Human Security Report. (2007). Human security brief. http://www.hsrgroup.org/human-security-reports/2007/overview.aspx.

  • Huntington, S. P. (1993). The third wave of democracy. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jaggers, K., & Gurr, T. R. (1995). Tracking democracy’s ‘third wave’ with the Polity III data. Journal of Peace Research, 32(4), 469–482.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kurrild-Klitgaard, P., Justesen, M. K., & Klemmensen, R. (2006). The political economy of freedom, democracy and transnational terrorism. Public Choice, 128(1/2), 289–315.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kydd, A., & Walter, B. (2002). Sabotaging the peace: The politics of extremist violence. International Organization, 56(2), 263–296.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Landes, W. M. (1978). An economic study of US aircraft hijackings, 1961–1976. Journal of Law and Economics, 21(1), 1–31.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Li, Q. (2005). Does democracy promote or reduce transnational terrorist incidents? Journal of Conflict Resolution, 49(2), 278–297.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mack, A. (2002). Civil war: Academic research and the policy community. Journal of Peace Research, 39(5), 515–525.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mueller, J., & Stewart, M. (2016). Chasing ghosts: The policing of terrorism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Piazza, J. A. (2012). Types of minority discrimination and terrorism. Conflict Management and Peace Science, 29(5), 521–546.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Piazza, J. A. (2013). Regime age and terrorism: Do young democracies experience more terrorist attacks? International Interactions, 39(2), 246–263.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Polo, S. M. T. (2015). How terrorism spreads: Information, emulation, and the spatial diffusion of ethnic terrorism. Paper presented at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association.

  • Polo, S. M. T., & Gleditsch, K. S. (2016). Twisting arms to send a message: Terrorism in civil war. Journal of Peace Research, forthcoming.

  • Regan, P. M., & Norton, D. (2005). Greed, grievance, and mobilization in civil wars. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 49(3), 319–336.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Roeder, P. G., & Rothchild, D. (2005). Sustainable peace: Democracy and power after civil wars. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rokkan, S., & Urwin, D. W. (1983). Economy, territory, identity: Politics of west European peripheries. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sandler, T. (2014). The analytical study of terrorism: Taking stock. Journal of Peace Research, 51(2), 257–271.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sandler, T., Tschirhart, J. T., & Cauley, J. (1983). A theoretical analysis of transnational terrorism. American Political Science Review, 77(1), 36–54.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Santifort-Jordan, C., & Sandler, T. (2014). An empirical study of suicide terrorism: A global analysis. Southern Economic Journal, 80(4), 981–1001.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Seymour, L. J. M., Bakke, K. M., & Cunningham, K. G. (2016). E pluribus unum, ex uno plures: Competition, violence, and fragmentation in ethnopolitical movements. Journal of Peace Research, 53(1), 3–18.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Shughart, W. F., II. (2006). An analytical history of terrorism, 1945–2000. Public Choice, 128(1/2), 7–39.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wucherpfennig, J., Metternich, N. W., Cederman, L.-E., & Gleditsch, K. S. (2012). Ethnicity, the state, and the duration of civil wars. World Politics, 64(1), 79–115.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

We are grateful for comments and suggestions from Daniel G. Arce M., Alex Braithwaite, Lars-Erik Cederman, Stefano Costalli, Michael Findley, Suthan Krishnarajan, Jørgen Møller, Lasse Lykke Rørbæk, Todd Sandler, William F. Shugart II, Dag Tanneberg, Jacob Tolstrup, and Andrea Ruggeri as well as the anonymous reviewers. Previous versions of this manuscript have been presented at the workshops on “Political Violence and Policy Conference” at the University of Texas Dallas, 19–20 May 2016, “Foundations of Regime Stability and Conflict” at Aarhus University, 2–3 June, 2016 “Conflicts and Institutions” at the University of Genoa, 16–17 June 2016. Gleditsch is grateful for support from the Research Council of Norway (213535/F10) and the European Research Council (313373), and Polo is grateful for support from the Economic and Social Research Council (ES/J500045/1).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Kristian Skrede Gleditsch.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Supplementary material 1 (PDF 90 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Gleditsch, K.S., Polo, S.M.T. Ethnic inclusion, democracy, and terrorism. Public Choice 169, 207–229 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11127-016-0360-5

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11127-016-0360-5

Keywords

  • Terrorism
  • Ethnic
  • Inclusion
  • Exclusion
  • Democracy
  • Accommodation