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Institutional Ineffectiveness, Illegitimacy, And Public Support For Vigilantism In Latin America


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Why do individuals or groups support vigilantism as a means of conflict resolution? Most researchers tend to agree that support for and participation in vigilantism occurs in “stateless locations,” that is, when formal justice institutions are weak or absent. Despite this general consensus, quantitative evidence of this relationship is limited to a handful of country‐specific studies that used only subjective survey‐based measures of institutional weakness. This study seeks to extend research on vigilantism by assessing the relationship between subjective and objective conditions of formal justice institutions and public support for vigilantism across 323 provinces in 18 Latin American countries by using the 2012 AmericasBarometer Survey. Specifically, this study uses multilevel logistic regression techniques to examine the variability of public support for lethal vigilantism within and across Latin American countries. When controlling for a wide range of potential confounds, the results show that the most robust predictors of support for violent vigilantism are subjective indicators of institutional illegitimacy, personal victimization, and punitive attitudes. Evidence also exists that objective insecurity, as measured by province‐level homicide rates, fosters public support for violent vigilantism in certain situations.