Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Political Science

Content Description

1 online resource (vi, 148 pages) : illustrations

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Victor Asal

Committee Members

Bryan Early, Katheleen Deloughery


counterterrorism, democracy, domestic terrorism, political violence, terrorism, transnational terrorism, Democracy, Terrorism, Political participation

Subject Categories

International Relations | Political Science | Public Policy


While policy makers assert that democracy can reduce terrorism, academics have produced differing theories explaining the relationship between the two. One theory suggests that democracy discourages terrorism because citizens in democracy can express grievances through electoral process resulting in their less incentive to resort to violence. Another theory argues that democracy encourages terrorism because its enabling environment reduces the cost of terrorist activities. Still another contends that democracy increases terrorism because political contestation in democracy induces some groups to use violence to outbid for their cause. Other strands exist including one suggesting no relationship between democracy and terrorism. These controversial theses have created questions rather than answers: does democracy have any effect on terrorism? If so how? This dissertation is to answer these enduring questions more clearly by disaggregating democracy into three separate components-political participation, political competition, and executive constraints-and examining each component against both domestic and transnational terrorism, using Negative Binomial regression. The empirical results show a strong support for the claim that executive constraints increase terrorism and a weak support for the thesis that political competition increases terrorism. However, the belief that political participation reduces terrorism is not supported; in other words, the level of voting turnout is irrelevant to the level of terrorism. These findings imply that democracies are likely to experience more domestic and transnational terrorism than autocracies due mainly to high level of constraints on the executive authority.