How Civilian Perceptions Affect Patterns of Violence and Competition in Multi-Party Insurgencies
40 Pages Posted: 30 May 2012 Last revised: 17 Nov 2015
Date Written: June 9, 2015
This article offers a nuanced argument for how and when public opinion constrains insurgent violence in multi-party contexts by further unpacking the causal mechanisms of outbidding theory. First, I argue that insurgent groups will only be responsive to civilian perceptions of violence when multiple groups are viewed as substitutable with one another. Second, whereas most studies fail to distinguish whose opinion matters most to insurgent groups, this paper explicitly argues that groups competing for public support are most concerned with the opinions of political independents – i.e. non-exclusive supporters – and not the opinions of their own or other groups’ exclusive supporters. Third, this paper employs a more theoretically anchored operationalization of public support for violence, based on whether civilians view armed confrontation as strategically effective. In sum, I predict that the intensity of competitive violence in multi-party conflicts is a function of: 1) Whether insurgent groups are perceived by the non-combatant public as substitutable, and 2) Whether the public perceives violence to be a positive indicator of a group’s propensity for success. Using polling data on Palestinian public opinion, I provide an empirical test of this argument through a case study of Palestinian insurgent violence and public opinion during the Second Intifada (2000-2004).
Keywords: Insurgency, Civil War, Violence, Public Support, Civilians
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