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Democracy and Homicide

Alexander Testa, Joseph K. Young, and Chris Mullins
Journal Article 2017. Homicide Studies forthcoming


This study builds on prior cross-national criminological literature by using disaggregated measures of democracy, notably rule of law, to examine the influence key components of democracy have on homicide rates. To assess this relationship, the current study uses two measures of rule of law: (a) a measurement of an independent judiciary; (b) a measurement of ``Law and Order Tradition'' from the International Country Risk Guide (ICRG). Findings indicate that the measures of rule of law have a significant negative effect on homicide rates.

Measuring Terrorism

Joseph K. Young
Journal Article 2017. Terrorism and Political Violence forthcoming


In the conceptual literature on terrorism, there is no shortage of answers to the question: ``What is terrorism?'' Indeed, the terrorism literature has been heavily criticized for a deluge of definitions. And yet the booming quantitative terrorism literature generally examines a narrow set of ``what is terrorism?'': how country-level factors explain variation in the number of terrorist attacks. This article demonstrates the variety of ways in which scholars currently operationalize terrorism and compares them to the ways it could be operationalized. I replicate studies using alternative operationalizations of terrorism to examine the consequences of the terrorism literature’s collective bet to focus on attack counts at the country level. Finally, I discuss the implications of the narrow set of operational choices with an eye towards how a greater variety of approaches would produce a more robust research agenda.

Repression, Education and Politically Motivated Denial of Service Attacks

Victor Asal, Jacob Mauslein, Amanda Murdie, Joseph K. Young Ken Cousins, and Chris Bronk
Journal Article 2016. Journal of Global Security Studies 1(3): 235-247


What factors drive politically motivated cyberattacks? Our research focuses on one particular kind of cyberattack: politically motivated, distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDoS). We argue that denial-of- service attacks are a particular form of a larger category of political contention that is more similar to nonviolent than violent activism. We offer a country-level explanation that helps establish why some nation-states are more likely to suffer such attacks while most others are not. When we control for wealth and Internet penetration, the strongest factor explaining why a country is more likely to suffer DDoS attacks is the dangerous combination of repression and a highly educated population. The results have important implications both for the scholarly study of this form of contention, as well as for policy- makers grappling with this new form of activism.

Terrorism, Spoiling, and the Resolution of Civil Wars

Michael G. Findley, and Joseph K. Young
Journal Article 2015. Journal of Politics 77(4): 1115-1128


Civil war combatants use terrorism frequently during civil wars, yet we understand very little about terrorism’s effects on war resolution. It is generally assumed that the primary combatants to a war hold a veto over the resolution of the war, but less attention has been devoted to whether the use of terrorism during civil wars can de- rail peace agreements. We contend that even terrorism, a generally low intensity form of violence, can make civil war peace processes less likely to conclude in a peaceful, durable resolution. Using a new and large geographically coded database of terrorism in civil wars, we find that the use of terror tactics can spoil peace processes by pro- longing the time until the end of a war, or hastening the time until recurrence. Our argument and results add to the literature on civil wars by explicating the process linking terrorism to war duration and outcome. We also provide empirical tests, which have been lacking in past studies of spoiling and civil war resolution. More generally, the results underscore the importance of investigating different varieties of political violence during civil conflict.

Tyrants and Terrorism: Why some Autocrats are Terrorized while Others are Not

Justin Conrad, Courtenay Conrad, and Joseph K. Young
Journal Article 2014. International Studies Quarterly 58(3): 539-549.


Conventional wisdom suggests that reports of terrorism should be sparse in dictatorships, both because such violence is unlikely to result in policy change and because it is difficult to get reliable information on attacks. Yet, there is variance in the number of terrorist attacks reported in autocracies. Why? We argue that differences in the audience costs produced by dictatorships explain why some non-democracies experience more terrorism than others. Terrorists are more likely to expect a response in dictatorships that generate high domestic audience costs. Using data from multiple terrorism databases, we find empirical evidence that dictatorships generating higher audience costs - military dictatorships, single-party dictatorships, and dynastic monarchies - experience as much terrorism as democracies, while autocracies generating lower audience costs - personalist dictatorships and non-dynastic monarchies - face fewer attacks than their democratic counterparts.

State Capacity and Terrorism: A Two-Dimensional Approach

Cullen Hendrix and Joseph K. Young
Journal Article 2014. Security Studies 23(2): 329-363.


Conventional wisdom suggests that dissident groups use terrorism when they face an overwhelmingly more powerful state, yet attacks in developing countries have predominated in the post-Cold War era, suggesting that terrorism is an increasingly weak state phenomenon. Cross-national studies of terrorism find mixed results for how common measures of state capacity influence terrorism. We argue that these indeterminate findings are due in part to a partial understanding of both what constitutes state capacity and how different aspects of state strength or weakness relate to the propensity of groups to use terrorism. We decompose state capacity into two dimensions that we theorize are particularly relevant to dissident groups: military capacity, or the ability to project conventional military force, and bureaucratic/administrative capacity. Our analysis supports the claim that terrorist attacks are more frequently targeted at states with large, technologically sophisticated militaries, but less frequently targeted at states with higher bureaucratic and administrative capacity. We also compare two militarily capable states, France and Russia, that have different recent experiences with terrorism that help illustrate the causal mechanisms involved. Evidence from our models and cases suggest that states can be capable in different ways, and these various capabilities create differing incentives for using terror as a strategic and tactical tool.

Survival of the Fittest: Why Terrorist Groups Endure

Joseph K. Young and Laura Dugan
Journal Article 2014. Perspectives on Terrorism 8(2): 1-23.


Why do terrorist groups endure? This question is relevant to scholars and policy makers alike. In the past, this issue has not been addressed in a systematic fashion. Recent work investigates this question using data on transnational groups and finds that factors associated with the home country can influence the group's endurance. Applying the theory of outbidding to terrorist group survival, we argue that strategic competition among groups predicts group duration. Using the Global Terrorism Database, we develop a dataset using the terrorist group as the unit of analysis to model the duration of group activity and thus include the largest sample of groups yet. Controlling for previous explanations of both group duration and terrorism, we find a robust effect for the impact that group competition has on terrorist group survival.

Lying About Terrorism

Erin Kearns, Brendan Conlon, and Joseph K. Young
Journal Article 2014. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 37(5): 422-439.


Conventional wisdom holds that terrorism is committed for strategic reasons as a form of costly signaling to an audience. However, since over half of terrorist attacks are not credibly claimed, conventional wisdom does not explain many acts of terrorism. This paper suggests that there are four lies about terrorism that can be incorporated in a rationalist framework: false claiming, false flag, the hot-potato problem, and the lie of omission. Each of these lies about terrorism can be strategically employed to help a group achieve its desired goal(s) without necessitating that an attack be truthfully claimed.

Repression Dissent and the Onset of Civil War

Joseph K. Young
Journal Article 2013. Political Research Quarterly 66(3): 516-532.


The prevailing scholarly wisdom is that weak states, or resource-poor states, are the most prone to civil war. Yet, many weak states never experience civil war. Why then are some weak states prone to civil war while others are not? I offer a theory that explains how dissidents and states interact to jointly produce civil war. In sum, states that repress their citizens are the most likely to kill citizens and to generate dissident violence. This insight resolves an academic puzzle and when tested provides a model with better predictive ability than previous models.

Shifting Sands: Explaining and Predicting Phase Shifts by Dissident Organizations

Steve Shellman, Brian Levey and Joseph K. Young
Journal Article 2013. Journal of Peace Research 50(3): 319-336.


Why does a dissident group go through phases of violence and nonviolence? Many studies of states and dissidents examine related issues by focusing on structural or rarely changing factors. In contrast, some more recent work focuses on dynamic interaction of participants. We suggest forecasting state–dissident interaction using insights from this dynamic approach while also incorporating structural factors. We explore this question by offering new data on the behavior of groups and governments collected using automated natural language processing techniques. These data provide information on who is doing what to whom at a directed-dyadic level. We also collected new data on the attitudes or sentiment of the masses using novel automated techniques. Since obtaining valid and reliable time-series public opinion data on mass attitudes towards a dissident group is extremely difficult, we have created automated sentiment data by scraping publicly available information written by members of the population and aggregating this information to create a pollof opinion at a discrete time period. We model the violence and nonviolence perpetrated by two groups: the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the Philippines. We find encouraging results for predicting future phase shifts in violence when accounting for behaviors modeled with our data as opposed to models based solely on structural factors.

Resistance to Privatization: Why Protest Movements Succeed and Fail in Latin America

Joseph K. Young, Peter Kingstone, and Rebecca Aubrey
Journal Article 2013. Latin American Politics & Society 55(3): 93-116.


Why do some movements in Latin America succeed in rolling back privatizations while others fail? We argue that protest against privatizations have tended to be successful under two conditions. First, protests are more likely to succeed when privatization's opponents form linkages (or `brokerage') across multiple sectors of society. Broad coalitions are more likely to achieve their goals, while groups acting alone, such as labor unions, are more easily defeated or ignored by governments. Second, protests against privatization are more successful when civil rights are protected, but political representation is weak. In those cases, opponents have the legal rights to protest, but are unlikely to have opportunities for communicating their concerns through formal institutions, prompting them to channel their demands outside of existing political institutions. Using case examples and logistic regression our arguments are confirmed and the implications for democracy in the region are discussed.

A Political Economy of Human Rights: Oil and State Incentives to Repress

Jacqueline DeMeritt and Joseph K. Young
Journal Article 2013. Confict Management & Peace Science: 30(2): 99-120.


Oil and other natural resources are linked to many undesirable outcomes, such as civil war, autocracy and lack of economic development. Using a state-centered framework for revenue extraction, we identify why oil should also be linked to another undesirable effect: repression. We argue that repression is less costly where states do not rely on their citizenry for generating revenue, so that these states are more likely than others to use indiscriminate violations of personal integrity rights as a policy tool. We test this argument using a cross-national database with a variety of indicators of oil and fuel rents and personal integrity violations. Across all specifications and different indicators, we find a substantive and significant relationship between a state relying on oil and the violation of personal integrity rights.

Terrorism and Civil War: A Spatial and Temporal Approach to a Conceptual Problem

Michael G. Findley and Joseph K. Young
Journal Article 2012. Perspectives on Politics 10(2): 285-305.


What is the relationship between civil war and terrorism? Most current research on these topics either explicitly or implicitly separates the two, in spite of compelling reasons to consider them together. In this paper, we examine the extent to which terrorism and civil war overlap and then unpack various temporal and spatial patterns. To accomplish this, we use newly geo-referenced terror event data to offer a global overview of where and when terrorist events happen and whether they occur inside or outside of civil war zones. Furthermore, we conduct an exploratory analysis of six separate cases that have elements of comparability but also occur in unique contexts, which illustrate some of the patterns in terrorism and civil war. The data show a high degree of overlap between terrorism and ongoing civil war and, further, indicate that a substantial amount of terrorism occurs prior to civil wars in Latin America, but follows war in other regions of the world. While the study of terrorism and civil war mostly occurs in separate scholarly communities, we argue for more work that incorporates insights from each research program and we offer a possibility for future research by considering how geo-referenced terror and civil war data may be utilized together. More generally, we expect these results to apply to a wide variety of attitudes and behaviors in contentious politics.

Using Geography to Understand Terrorist Actors and Actions

Michael G. Findley and Joseph K. Young
Journal Article 2012. International Studies Review 14(3): 475-497. Co-Editor of Forum


How should we conceptualize terrorism? Is it a tactic that can be utilized by any actor? Or is it a tactic that defines a class of actors? Or is it both? How do we relate the concept of a terrorist act to the concept of a terrorist organization? Debates over how best to define terrorism have chased the elusive goal of finding the correct definition. And the key lesson that has emerged from this endeavor is that we will not ever find a single, correct definition. Instead, our collective goal should be to find a useful operationalizable definition that can help us to understand the world better and act in accordance with what we understand. In this Forum, we debate how best to do this with contributions from a range of notable scholars in the field.

More Combatants, More Terror? An Empirical Test and Extension of the Outbidding Thesis

Michael G. Findley and Joseph K. Young
Journal Article 2012. Terrorism and Political Violence 24(5): 706-721.


In armed internal conflict, violence against civilians is frequent. For insurgent groups, so-called terrorist acts are an important part of conflict with the state and yet there are numerous unanswered questions about the role and uses of terrorism during these conflicts. This paper examines the causes of terrorism in the context of a larger struggle between a state and insurgent groups. In particular, we examine and test the logic that outbidding among insurgent groups results in more suicide terrorism specifically and more terrorism of any type. A global analysis of terrorism from 1970 - 2004 provides scant support for the notion that outbidding increases suicide terrorism. An exten- sion of the argument to all types of terrorist attacks provides even less support. The logic of outbidding has received considerable attention in academic and policy circles in recent years. But similar to the argument that democratic occupation increases suicide terror, both arguments have received little empirical support and suggest that considerable cross-national work is still needed to understand suicide terror adequately.

Battling Abroad: Why Some Organizations are Likely Targets of Foreign Counterterrorism

Victor Asal and Joseph K. Young
Journal Article 2012. Civil Wars 14(2): 272-287.


Why are some terrorist organizations more likely to be targets of transnational counterterrorist operations? Previous work has identified characteristics of the environment or country involved to explain variation in targeting. We focus on characteristics of the violent organization to explain this variation. Using cross-national data on terrorist organizations and state targeting of these organizations, we identify several factors that help explain the variation in why some organizations are likely to be targeted while others are not.

Games Rivals Play: Interstate Rivalry and Transnational Terrorism

Michael G. Findley, James Piazza and Joseph K. Young
Journal Article 2012. Journal of Politics 74(1): 235-248.


The quantitative terrorism literature has largely overlooked interstate relations when evaluating predictors of transnational terrorist attacks, opting to focus on state, group, or individual-level factors to explain patterns of terrorism using analytical methods that are limited to either the origin or target of the attack. In this piece we argue that this is both incongruous with the larger conflict literature and limiting in terms of theoretical impact. Transnational terrorism in many cases is more accurately considered a component of conflicting relations between two states generally hostile towards each other, which necessitates an examination of both states. We demonstrate, by conducting a series of statistical analyses using politically-relevant directed dyads, that interstate rivalries are reliable positive predictors of transnational terrorism. We find that interstate rivalries explain a great deal of variation in cross-national patterns of terrorism, a result that is robust to different rivalry measures. Application to Pakistani-Indian terrorism further illustrates the cross- national results.

Cultures of Violence and Acts of Terror: Applying a Legitimation-Habituation Model to Terrorism

Chris Mullins and Joseph K. Young
Journal Article 2011. Crime & Delinquency 58(1): 28-56.


While uniquely positioned to provide insight into the nature and dynamics of terrorism, overall the field of criminology has seen relatively few empirically-focused analyses of this form of political violence. This paper seeks to add to our understanding of terror through an exploration of how general levels of violence within a given society influence the probability of political dissidents within that society resorting to terror as a form of political action. Drawing on the legitimation-habituation thesis, we explore whether general levels of legitimate and illegitimate violence within a society predict terrorist violence (both internal and external in direction) within that society. To do so we use zero-inflated negative binomial regression models to perform time-series cross-sectional analysis on predictors of terrorist events from the Global Terrorism Database (GTD). We find support for our core hypothesis and provide a discussion of the implications for the findings within our data and for future criminological research on terrorism.

Can Peace Be Purchased? A Sectoral-Level Analysis of Aid's Influence on Transnational Terrorism

Joseph K. Young and Michael G. Findley
Journal Article 2011. Public Choice 149(3/4): 365-381.


Does foreign aid reduce terrorism? We examine whether foreign aid decreases terrorism by analyzing whether aid targeted toward certain sectors is more effective than others. We use the most comprehensive databases on foreign aid and transnational terrorism (AidData and ITERATE) to provide a series of statistical tests. Our results show that foreign aid decreases terrorism especially when targeted toward sectors, such as education, health, civil society, and conflict prevention. These sector-level results indicate that foreign aid can be an effective instrument in fighting terrorism if allocated in appropriate ways.

Promise and Pitfalls of Terrorism Research

Joseph K. Young and Michael G. Findley
Journal Article 2011. International Studies Review 13(3): 411-431.


Using a database of recent articles published in prominent political science journals, we show the rapid increase in terrorism research. Given this increased awareness and attention, we identify several problems that still plague the study of political terrorism including definitional problems that lack empirical tests, not distinguishing among different types of terrorism, and using the wrong unit of analysis when designing research. After identifying these problems—especially as they relate to the quantitative study of terrorism—we suggest some solutions. We then apply these suggestions to investigate whether changing the definition of terrorism, different types of terrorism, or changing the unit of analysis affect key predictors of terror events cross-nationally. One of our tests consists of varying the unit of observation to include directed-dyads, which offers the potential to test some of the many strategic models of terrorism. Our analysis suggests that varying definitions of terrorism, such as military vs. non-military targets, might not be that consequential, whereas different types of terrorism, such as domestic vs. transnational, could be driven by fundamentally different processes. We also conclude that modeling transnational terrorism differently using directed dyads yields new and interesting insights into the process of terrorism.

Terrorism, Bargaining, and Credible Commitments

Michael G. Findley and Joseph K. Young
Journal Article 2011. International Studies Quarterly 55(2): 357-378.


What explains the variation in terrorism within and across political regimes? We contend that terrorism is most likely to occur in contexts in which governments cannot credibly restrain themselves from abusing their power in the future. We consider a specific insti- tutional arrangement, whether a state has an independent judiciary, and hypothesize that independent judiciaries make government commitments more credible, thereby providing less incentive for the use of terrorism. Using a recently released database that includes transnational and domestic terrorist events from 1970 - 1997, we estimate a set of statistical analyses appropriate for the challenges of terrorism data and then examine the robustness of the results. The results provide support for the credible commitment logic and offer insights into the different ways that political institutions increase or decrease terrorism.

Veto Players and Terror

Joseph K. Young and Laura Dugan
Journal Article 2011. Journal of Peace Research 48(1): 19-33.


Democratic regimes have been linked to terrorism for contending reasons with some scholars claiming democracy increases terrorism and others claiming it decreases terror. Corroborating evidence has been used for both relationships leading to the following puzzle: why do some democratic regimes seem to foster terrorism while others do not? We offer an explanation based on Tsbelis' veto players theory. Beginning with the assumption that terror groups want to change government policy, we argue that the more veto players present in a political system, the more likely the system is to experience deadlock. Given the inability of societal actors to change policies through nonviolent and institutional participation, these systems will tend to generate more terror events. We also explore different methods for estimating terrorism models. We identify several ways to match the data with the proper statistical estimator and discuss implications for terrorism research. Finally, we use new data from the Global Terrorism Database (GTD) that was previously unavailable. These data allow us to use different operational definitions of terrorism and to identify homegrown terror events.

State Capacity, Democracy, and the Violation of Personal Integrity Rights

Joseph K. Young
Journal Article 2009. Journal of Human Rights 8(4): 283-300.


Why do states violate personal integrity rights? One of the most robust empirical observations is that democratic states do not repress or violate these rights. Yet, some democracies respect rights while others do not. To address this puzzle, I offer a state capacity based explanation for human rights violations. I argue that insecure leaders, in both democracies and autocracies, are more likely to violate rights in an attempt to cling to power. Results from a series of econometric models support a state-centric view of human rights violations.

Partisanship and Policy Choice

Peter Kingstone and Joseph K. Young
Journal Article 2009. Political Research Quarterly 62(1): 29-41.


Leftists seem to be on the rise in Latin America, but it is unclear to what extent this impacts policy. Thus,a crucial question hangs over this apparent `shift' in regional preferences: does the left have any real options to offer? Or in Latin America in an age of globalization, “what’s left for the left?”The contending perspectives are compared, and then the evidence is evaluated using a series of econometric models. In sum, no discernible policy differences between the left and the rest were found. In the conclusion, the implications of this result for Latin American democracy are discussed.

Cantankerous Cooperation: Democracies, Authoritarian Regimes and the Prisoner's Dilemma

Joseph K. Young and Brian Urlacher
Journal Article 2007. International Interactions 33(1): 51-73.


One of the most important debates in the field of international relations is over the effect of regime type on militarized conflict. This debate, however, has rarely extended to how regime type influences other aspects of foreign policy. Using a computer simulated intergroup prisoner's dilemma, we investigate whether democratic decisionmaking groups are more cooperative than authoritarian decisionmaking groups. We argue that differences between cooperation tendencies of groups can be explained by the structure of the decision process. Repeated simulations show that democracies tend to be more consistent in their decisions in comparison to authoritarian groups. Implications for international relations theory and policy are discussed.

Editors' Introduction: A Relational Political Science

Scott McClurg andJoseph K. Young
Journal Article 2011. PS: Political Science & Politics 44(1): 39-43.


Co-edited symposium and co-wrote introduction on social networks and Political Science.

Fighting Fire with Fire? How (Not) to Neutralize an Insurgency

Michael G. Findley andJoseph K. Young
Journal Article 2007. Civil Wars 9(4): 378-401.


From as early as the Roman Empire to the present day, governments have grappled with how best to respond to political violence from organized insurgent groups. In response to insurgent groups, some governments have emphasized a direct military response or what is often called `attrition'. Other states have stressed a softer, political strategy or what is often called the `hearts and minds' approach. Either approach places thepopulation at the center of a struggle between the government and violent dissidents. Despite numerous works emphasizing either `attrition' or `hearts andminds', few theoretical studies have attempted to compare their relative success. Using an agent-based computational model, we examine which approach is more successful at quelling insurgencies and find that a hearts and minds approach is superior to an attrition strategy. We illustrate the model with insights from the Iraqi insurgency and, moregenerally, themodel has implications for other insurgencies, such as in Chechnya.

Allow Extremist Participation in the Policy- Making Process

Laura Dugan and Joseph K. Young
Book Chapter In Natasha A. Frost, Joshua D. Freilich, and Todd R. Clear (Eds.), Contemporary Issues in Criminal Justice Policy: Policy Proposals From the American Society of Criminology Conference. Belmont, CA: Cengage/Wadsworth.

Simulating Terror: Credible Commitment, Costly Signaling, and Strategic Behavior

David Siegel and Joseph K. Young
Pedagogy PS: Political Science & Politics 42(4): 765-771


We present two simulations designed to convey the strategic nature of terrorism and
counter-terrorism. The first is a simulated hostage crisis, designed primarily to illustrate the concepts of credible commitment and costly signaling. The second explores high-level decision-making of both a terrorist group and the state, and is designed to highlight scarce resource allocation and organizational dynamics. The simulations should be useful both in a traditional classroom setting, as well as to the larger public. We provide a primer on the subject matter, and all the material necessary to run the simulations.

Simulating Two-Level Negotiations

Joseph K. Young
Pedagogy International Studies Perspectives 7(1): 77-82.


International negotiations can be modeled as a two-level process that involves competing interests within and between groups. This modified simulation of the classic prisoner's dilemma introduces students to the negotiation process and challenges them to consider how different de cision structures can affect outcomes. Students fill both leadership and negotiation roles and gain an active learning experience that exposes them to important international relations concepts. All of the instructions, handouts, and materials are included to provide instructors of international relations or comparative politics with a resource that can be utilized with groups of varying size, ability, and composition.