Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Political Science

First Advisor

Avery Goldstein


What role do elections play during counterinsurgency wars? Prompted by the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, two broad empirical trends also underlay the posing of this research question. In the modern era, the number of electoral regimes in the international system has expanded dramatically. And in this same period, the fortunes of governments combatting asymmetric internal threats has reversed, with incumbents being defeated by their ‘weaker’ opponents one third of the time, and securing outright victory for themselves only to an equal extent. But while the grievances expounded by insurgents vary across conflicts, the inclusivity of access to the institutions of power and the right to shape policy is a constant facet of every political system. Endogenous Mobilization Theory, argues that elections and their associated institutions provide both a proxy measure for a state’s willingness to accede to the desires of a broader swathe of its domestic populace than their non-elected counterparts, as well as serve as the mechanism which binds political regime elites to the aspirations of their masses across a myriad host of salient political cleavages.

The theory is evaluated cross-nationally using a dataset of all modern counterinsurgency wars fought since the end of World War II. Controlling for a wide variety of factors, and employing both categorical as well as duration modelling approaches, the results support that elected governments indeed enjoy vastly better war prospects and face a considerably reduced hazard of suffering an outright defeat. These findings are sustained across a series of tests employed to address potential concerns with respect to endogeneity bias, including an application of the instrumental variables technique utilizing two-stage least squares. Further quantitative testing, at the sub-national level, examines the 2003 War in Iraq. The results support that the precipitous decline in violence during the surge period, is strongly associated with the political realignment of Sunnis following the reintroduction of electoral institutions in 2005, which promoted a shift in domestic political opportunity structures, and created access points within the new status quo regime for more moderate members/supporters of the erstwhile nationalist Sunni based insurgency.

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