- The Illusion of Democratic Credibility
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- by Sechser, Todd S.; Downes, Alexander B.
- Do democracies make more effective coercive threats? An inﬂuential
literature in international relations argues that democratic institutions allow leaders
to credibly signal their resolve in crises, thereby making their threats more likely to
work than threats by nondemocracies. This article revisits the quantitative evidence
for this proposition, which we call the “democratic credibility hypothesis,” and ﬁnds
that it is surprisingly weak. Close examination of the data sets most commonly used
to test this hypothesis reveals that they contain few successful democratic threats, or
indeed threats of any kind. Moreover, these data sets’ outcome variables do not properly measure the effectiveness of threats, and therefore yield misleading results. The
article then reassesses the democratic credibility hypothesis using the Militarized Compellent Threats data set, a new data set designed speciﬁcally to test hypotheses about
the effectiveness of coercive threats. The analysis indicates that threats from democracies are no more successful than threats from other states.
- Publication Type: Published Paper
- Publisher: International Organization
- Published Date: June 2012
- Field of Interest: Comparative Politics
- Downes, Alexander and Todd S. Sechser. The Illusion of Democratic Credibility. International Organization (66): 457489. 2012.