Civil Conflict and Voting Behavior: Evidence from Colombia

39 Pages Posted: 19 Aug 2011

Date Written: August 18, 2011


What are the effects of civil conflict on political behavior? Even though war tends to be the continuation of politics, little is known about the effects of conflict on citizens’ voting behavior. Colombia is an interesting case in which civil war and elections coexist, and illegal armed groups intentionally affect electoral outcomes. Nonetheless, different groups use different strategies to alter these results. Using panel data from Senate elections from 1994 to 2006 and an instrumental variable approach to address potential endogeneity concerns, this paper shows that increasing guerrilla violence decreases voter turnout, while paramilitary violence has no significant effect on this variable. The results also suggest that after 1998, when the paramilitaries got involved in politics, electoral competition has had a tendency to be lower in municipalities affected by paramilitary violence. Relative to traditional parties, newly created third parties have a better performance in municipalities affected by paramilitary attacks. Additionally, FARC violence is significantly higher during election years, while paramilitary violence is lower. This is consistent with the hypothesis that the guerrilla’s strategy is to sabotage elections, while paramilitaries establish alliances with certain candidates. These patterns seem to be the result of deliberate strategies undertaken by the illegal armed groups.

Keywords: Civil war, elections, insurgency, instrumental variables

Suggested Citation

Gallego, Jorge A., Civil Conflict and Voting Behavior: Evidence from Colombia (August 18, 2011). Available at SSRN: or

Jorge A. Gallego (Contact Author)

Universidad del Rosario ( email )

Calle 12 No. 6-25
Bogota, DC

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics