Politics or the economy? Domestic correlates of dispute involvement in developed democracies

Philip Arena, Glenn Palmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Consideration of the effects of domestic politics on international conflict behavior often consists simply of contrasting democracies with non-democracies. One notable exception is work that links economic performance and the use of force. This link has often been addressed through use of a diversionary perspective. In this paper, we argue that more important than the alleged incentive to pursue a rallying effect when times are bad are domestic political and economic factors affecting leaders' constraints, representing some of the costs to pursuing adventurous foreign policies. We examine three sources of constraints on democratic leaders: the willingness of the constituency to support the use of force internationally; the macroeconomic preferences of the party's constituency; and an interaction of those preferences with the state of the economy. We find that in developed democracies, the political orientation of the government is a significant factor affecting the likelihood of international conflict initiation. Specifically, right governments are more likely to initiate interstate disputes; economic conditions have a significant but lesser impact.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)955-975
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Studies Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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