Terrorism in dictatorships

Deniz Aksoy, David B. Carter, Joseph Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


A key finding in the terrorism literature is that dictatorships experience less terrorism than democracies. However, we have few explanations for why some dictatorships experience substantial threats from terrorism while others do not. A growing body of work on authoritarian politics focuses on political institutions in these regimes to explain a broad range of political outcomes. Building on this literature, we argue that opposition political party activity increases the collective action capacity of regime opponents and that elected legislatures can channel this mobilized capacity into support for the government. However, when active opposition parties operate in the absence of legislatures, political opponents increasingly turn to terrorism. We find evidence that terrorist groups are most likely to emerge in dictatorships with opposition political parties but no elected legislature. These regimes also experience the highest volume of subsequent attacks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)810-826
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Politics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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