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International Terrorism and the Political Survival of Leaders


Journal of Conflict Resolution

Published online on


This study examines whether transnational terrorist attacks impact the political survival of leaders. We argue that external security threats, such as those from transnational terrorist incidents, can undermine incumbent target governments by exposing foreign policy failures and damaging society’s general well-being. Yet, terrorism may not destabilize democratic governments as a result of citizens rallying around their elected leaders in threatening times. Focusing on Archigos’ survival leadership data and International Terrorism: Attributes of Terrorist Events’ terrorism data for the 1968–2004 period, we find that autocrats who experience higher instances of transnational terrorist attacks are more likely to exit power. Democrats, however, are relatively secure to the destabilizing influence of transnational terrorism.