Civilian Attitudes and Insurgent Tactics in Civil War
75 Pages Posted: 5 Jun 2014 Last revised: 12 Jul 2018
Date Written: January 1, 2016
How do insurgents choose their tactics in civil wars? While most theories of civil war violence marginalize the role of ideology, we argue that the location, type, and lethality of insurgent violence are all shaped by the underlying spatial distribution of civilians' relative support for combatants. Unlike current "hearts and minds" theories, we contend that pro-government attitudes are associated with increased, not reduced, violence, and that these attitudes predict future attacks. A survey experiment in 204 Afghan villages is used to establish a positive association between pro-International Security Assistance Force attitudes and future Taliban attacks. We extend our analysis to 14,606 non-surveyed villages, where our measure of civilian attitudes improves out-of-sample prediction by 20--30% over standard forecasting models. The results are especially strong for Taliban attacks with improvised explosive devices. These findings hold even after adjusting for possible confounders, including past violence, military bases, and aid.
Note: Was: "Can Civilian Attitudes Predict Civil War Violence?"
Keywords: Civil War; Public Opinion; Survey Experiment; Out-of-sample Prediction
JEL Classification: C53, C93, D74
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation