Identifying the level of major power support signaled for protégés: A latent measure approach

Roseanne W. McManus, Mark David Nieman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Major powers signal support for protégés in order to reassure them and deter harm against them. Yet, it is not always clear how to identify who a major power’s protégés are or the degree of support signaled. Major powers have a variety of complementary signals to choose among, including alliances, arms transfers, joint military exercises, and others. It can be difficult to weigh the importance of individual signals, especially since different major powers do not deploy each signal in the same way. We address this challenge using a Bayesian latent measurement model, which provides a theoretically coherent means of identifying the overall level of support signaled by a major power for a protégé. Our approach yields a cross-sectional time-series dataset, providing a continuous measure of the degree of support signaled by major powers for all minor powers from 1950 to 2012. Our model also provides insights regarding which signals of support are most informative when sent by each major power. We find considerable variation among major powers regarding which of their signals are most meaningful, but in general alliances and military exercises tend to be among the most important signals. In further applications using our latent measure, we also assess under which conditions major powers are likely to increase their signals of support for protégés, as well as predict whether a major power will intervene in conflicts involving its protégés.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)364-378
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Peace Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Safety Research
  • Political Science and International Relations


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