Can Terrorism Abroad Influence Migration Attitudes at Home?

The forthcoming article “Can Terrorism Abroad Influence Migration Attitudes at Home” ( by Vincenzo Bove, Tobias Böhmelt  and Enzo Nussio is summarized by the authors below.

Can Terrorism Abroad Influence Attitudes About Migration at Home
Over the past few years, political leaders in Europe and elsewhere increasingly link the risk of terrorism to immigration. This includes moderate politicians in countries targeted by terrorism such as the German Chancellor Angela Merkel as well as leaders of states that are less frequently hit by terrorist attacks, such as the Polish president Andrzej Duda.  In this context, our article investigates the impact of terrorism on immigration attitudes across Europe. Specifically, we ask whether terrorist attacks can propagate migration concern from targeted countries to their neighbors.

Although terrorist attacks are rare events, and only a minority of countries are directly and frequently targeted by such violence, we show that all countries are indirectly exposed to attacks in their neighborhood. Moreover, previous studies overwhelmingly focus on the most sensationalist events, with large numbers of victims and unusual media coverage, although the majority of terrorist events is of smaller scale and receives less attention. We highlight that they can still shape public attention on immigration beyond national borders. Finally, existing evidence suggests that public opinion positively correlates with policy outputs. As such, politicians are likely to respond to citizens’ concerns through legislative actions, such as more restrictive immigration policies. One implication of our work is that it is of secondary importance whether the public is “right” about the link between terrorism and migration.

To address our research question, we use the Eurobarometer surveys to capture the salience of immigration from 2003 to 2017. We also compiled data on foreign states’ level of terrorism, which are reasonably exogenous as terrorism abroad is driven by factors that unlikely have a direct link with the timing and scope of the interviews.  We estimate spatial models, which allow us to investigate whether a more elevated concern with migration is observed in the geographic vicinity of the targeted country. Our analysis suggests that the proximity to terrorism, by stimulating emotional public responses, not only affects the salience of immigration within a country, but also diffuses across European states and intensifies immigration-salience attitudes in nearby states.

The “European migrant crisis” has created divisions within the EU and has challenged its commitment to hosting foreign-born individuals, including refugees from war-torn regions. As politicians often respond to public opinion through policy decisions, a poor understanding of what drives public sentiment, particularly the unsubstantiated fear of a migration-terrorism link, can lead to unnecessarily more stringent immigration policies. As all European citizens are exposed to terrorism, even when their country is neither directly targeted nor at imminent risk, our results suggest a more careful consideration of external factors and can help inform the current reforms to Europe’s asylum policy. Our findings are also relevant for other world regions and are one further step in the direction of gaining a better and more general understanding of what affects public opinion, domestic policies, and political reforms.

About the Authors: Tobias Böhmelt is Professor of Government, University of Essex, Colchester, Vincenzo Bove is Professor of Political Science, Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Warwick, and Enzo Nussio is Senior Researcher, Center for Security Studies, ETH Zürich. Their research “Can Terrorism Abroad Influence Migration Attitudes at Home?” ( is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science.

AJPS Editors’ Blog

December 1st marked our first six months as co-editors of AJPS. We want to thank our associate editors, board members, authors, and reviewers for a very smooth transition. Now that we have some experience under our belts, we thought we’d offer some thoughts about several topics that might be helpful to reviewers and authors alike. So, on occasional Tuesdays, we’ll post a short entry about some aspect of the journal submission, review, or publication process that we’ve had to address over the course of the last six months. While these issues are probably relevant to most journals, we only speak for ourselves and our expectations for AJPS.

Appendices, Supporting Information, Supplemental Materials, You Get the Picture

In the old days – like the early 2000s – most articles appeared exclusively in print. Authors struggled with word counts because submissions had to include all relevant material, including appendices. Online supplemental appendices now allow authors to focus the body of the text on telling the main story. Details about survey questions, experimental treatments, alternative model specifications, robustness checks, and additional analyses can be relegated to the appendix. The upside is that articles themselves can be shorter, crisper, and more straightforward, but readers can still find clarifying information in the appendix. The downside is that some authors have taken a “more is better” and “better safe than sorry” approach to appendix compilations. In our six months on the job, we have received 10,000-word manuscripts that are “supported” by 50, 75, even 100-page appendices. Most appendices aren’t this long, but almost every manuscript now comes with significant supplemental materials.

We understand why authors do this. Why not preempt any concern a reviewer might raise, provide every alternative specification possible to model, and share every detail about the research design and protocol? The problem is that while appendix space may seem “free” to authors, it comes with a substantial cost to reviewers, who are now often faced with a 10,000-word manuscript and an equally long or longer appendix. Anything that increases the burden on reviewers makes an overworked system even more precarious.

At AJPS, we limit supplemental appendices to 20 pages. We believe that this gives authors sufficient space to provide additional information that might not belong in the body of a manuscript but is still important to the paper’s central contribution. In enforcing this limit, we ask authors to think carefully about what they really need to include in an appendix verbatim versus what they can summarize. If you run three experiments with identical treatments, you only need to offer the script of the treatment once. If you’re providing alternative analyses, you don’t have to provide every model you ever ran or think a reviewer might anticipate. If the additional material doesn’t merit some discussion in the main paper, then the more elaborate discussion doesn’t belong in the appendix either. As a general rule, we believe that a manuscript must be able to stand on its own. A reader must be able to understand it and find it convincing even without the appendix. The appendix, in other words, should be a place to provide information about “housekeeping” details, not a way to back door in thousands of words you couldn’t fit in the paper itself.

We know that limiting appendix pages can be anxiety-inducing for authors. That’s probably why so many of you request exemptions. But we’ve found that requiring authors to distinguish between what’s essential and what might be extraneous improves the quality of the manuscript and makes the task of reviewing that much easier and more reasonable – something every author appreciates when wearing the hat of a reviewer.

When Do Campaign Effects Persist for Years? Evidence from a Natural Experiment

The forthcoming article “When Do Campaign Effects Persist for Years? Evidence from a Natural Experiment” ( by Kai Jäger is summarized by the author below.
AJPS - When do Campaign Effects Persist for Years.png
Election campaigns are a cornerstone of democracies. The ability of parties to sway the public via election campaigns draws the attention from academics, journalists, and historians alike. The vast academic literature on election campaigns generally suggests, however, that campaign effects are, at best, minimal and short-lived. Given this consensus and the methodological difficulty to conduct long-term studies due to potential confounders, we do not know much about the longevity of campaign effects and what political behavior can be durably shaped by election campaigns.

A unique political event in Germany constitutes a natural experiment to evaluate whether political campaigns can last for nearly a decade: In the 2007 state elections of Bremen, the local right-wing conservative party Citizens in Rage (Bürger in Wut, BIW) missed the 5-percent threshold for parliamentary representation by a mere vote. Due to vote counting irregularities in a precinct in the city of Bremerhaven, the Constitutional Court of Bremen ordered a re-vote in this single precinct over a year later. BIW increased its vote share in the re-vote from 4.35 to 27.57 percent, successfully passing the threshold for parliamentary representation. What preceded the re-vote was a one-sided election campaign focusing on law and order by BIW frontrunner Jan Timke in the precinct. 

I use three different research strategies to evaluate whether BIW’s re-vote campaign could have a long-lasting impact. First, I compared the election results of BIW in the re-vote precinct to the neighboring precincts in subsequent elections, finding that BIW’s vote share has on average increased by about 4.2 percentage points in the re-vote precinct. 

Second, I conducted an observational shoe-leather study, in which I evaluate whether the precinct area has installed more warning signs on their property than the structurally identical neighborhood. Warning signs are an indicator of security-sensitive behavior and suggest that residents have been influenced by BIW’s law-and-order campaign. I find that residents of the re-vote precinct were 13 percentage points more likely than their neighbors to have warning signs.  

Third, I invited the residents of the re-vote area and the structurally similar surroundings to a mail survey to test for attitudinal differences. The survey shows that both groups do not differ in their support for right-wing programmatic positions, but that residents of the re-vote area were 15 percentage points more likely to consider BIW as the most competent party on security. In addition, I also find that the re-vote has negatively affected some levels of trust in the democratic system, as residents of the re-vote area were more likely to believe that election fraud reoccurred in the 2015 Bremen election, in which the right-wing Alternative for Germany (Alternative für Deutschland, AfD) barely missed the five-percent threshold by a few votes. 

There are broader lessons for election campaigns from this unique case, as my study shows that long-term effects can exist if parties are able to run a dominant campaign, which could even shape non-political behavior. Thus, campaigning in uncompetitive first-past-the-post constituencies or in non-election periods might turn out to have long-term benefits.

About the Author: Kai Jäger is a Lecturer in Political Economy, Department of Political Economy, King’s College London. The research “When Do Campaign Effects Persist for Years? Evidence from a Natural Experiment” ( is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science.

Universal Love or One True Religion: Experimental Evidence of the Ambivalent Effect of Religious Ideas on Altruism and Discrimination

The forthcoming article “Universal Love or One True Religion? Experimental Evidence of the Ambivalent Effect of Religious Ideas on Altruism and Discrimination” ( is summarized by the author(s) below.
AJPS - FB Posts-Hoffman.png
Contrary to the expectations of secularization theory, religion remains socially important and affects politics in multiple ways. More than 80 percent of the world’s population identifies with a religious group and the number of Christian and Muslim believers is expected to increase even further in the coming decades (Pew Research Center 2017). But how does religion affect behavior?

While religion has different relevant dimensions, we investigate the ambivalent impact of religious ideas on altruism and discrimination. Theoretically, religious ideas can increase altruism if they emphasize principles like universal love. However, the belief in the superiority of one’s own faith can also increase discrimination between different religious groups. Therefore, we argue that the specific content of religious ideas matters for behavior.

We test the impact of two opposing, prominent religious ideas on altruism and discrimination versus a nonreligious control prime: universal love and the notion of only one true religion. Using experimental methods, we conducted dictator games with more than 1,200 Christian and Muslim believers in Ghana and Tanzania. In the dictator game, one person is assigned the role of the “dictator” and endowed with a monetary budget. The dictator decides how to allocate the budget between himself/herself and the second player. Participants played the role of dictator twice. For one of the two decisions, the receiver belonged to the same religious group as the dictator; for the other, they belonged to a different one.

We find that people do not behave more altruistically if we prime either of the two religious ideas as compared to a neutral, non-religious idea. However, religious ideas do matter when it comes to intergroup discrimination. The idea of universal love leads to more equal treatment of both the religious in-group and out-group: it increases the proportion of participants who transfer the same amount of money to both. In contrast, under the one true religion prime, the religious out-group receives 11.82 percent lower transfers compared to the in-group.

Thus, to promote peaceful coexistence between religious groups and to avoid conflict, it seems promising to incentivize religious teachings that are particularly tolerant and that de-emphasize the superiority of one’s own religion, stressing instead tolerance toward other faiths and “universal love.”

About the Author(s): Lisa Hoffmann is a Research Fellow and Doctoral Student, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies & University of Hamburg, Matthias Basedau is Director of the GIGA Institute of African Affairs, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies, Simone Gobien is a Research Associate, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies, and Sebastian Prediger,  is an economist with KfW Development Bank. Their research “Universal Love or One True Religion? Experimental Evidence of the Ambivalent Effect of Religious Ideas on Altruism and Discrimination” ( is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science.

Policymaking with Multiple Agencies

The forthcoming article “Policymaking with Multiple Agencies” ( by Peter Bils is summarized by the author(s) below.
AJPS - FB Posts-Bils.png
Congress often delegates policymaking authority on similar issues to multiple government agencies. For example, financial products are regulated by both the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Given this overlap, it is regularly proposed that authority should be consolidated into just one of the agencies. In this paper, I study when Congress should delegate to multiple agencies or consolidate authority within one agency.

For many policy issues that feature split authority effective regulation requires agencies to have detailed technical information. Furthermore, information relevant to one agency is often relevant to the other agency as well.  However, as agencies frequently have different policy preferences  it is important to understand how delegating to multiple agencies affects incentives to gather and communicate information. To study this problem, I analyze a game-theoretic model of policymaking with two bureaucratic agencies and Congressional delegation. In the model, Congress can consolidate authority within one agency or split authority between two agencies. To develop policy, agencies expend resources acquiring information that is relevant to both issues. Furthermore, if authority is split then the agencies may choose to share information with each other.

I show that greater divergence between the agencies’ ideal points distorts information sharing and policy choices, but may increase the amount of information acquisition. Congress achieves better policy outcomes by delegating authority to both agencies when the agencies have strong policy disagreements. If the agencies have similar policy preferences, however, then Congress may want to consolidate authority within one agency. This mitigates free-riding and takes advantage of returns to scale.

About the Author: Peter Bils is a Postdoctoral Research Assistant in the Department of Politics at Princeton University. The research “Policymaking with Multiple Agencies” ( is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science.

Donors, Primary Elections, and Polarization in the United States

The forthcoming article “Donors, Primary Elections, and Polarization in the United States” ( by Jordan Kujala is summarized by the author(s) below.
AJPS - Kujala
In the United States, the ideological polarization of congressional candidates and members of congress is well known as Democrats and Republicans routinely take policy positions that substantially differ from one another. Recent studies have even found that congressional candidates and elected officials often hold more extreme preferences than their own primary electorate (Bafumi and Herron 2010; Barber 2016; Stone and Simas 2010).  

I argue that these extreme candidates are able to win nomination and office because of the influential role of donors in primary elections. The advantageous role of donors in primaries gives donors the ability to demand policy responsiveness in exchange for the resources necessary to run a successful campaign. While the influence of wealthy donors has often been suggested as a source for the success of extreme candidates, there is little evidence that donors and campaign contributions affect the policy preferences of congressional candidates or the roll-call votes of members of congress. 

To test the influence of donors in primary elections, I analyze 3,600 Democrats and Republicans that won primaries for the House of Representatives between 2002 and 2010. I construct a dataset that contains comparable ideological measures for House nominees, their partisan donor constituencies, and their primary and general electorates. 

Using this dataset, I find the strongest evidence to date that the influence of donors in primary elections substantially affects the district-level polarization of congressional candidatesThese findings suggest Democrats and Republicans that win congressional primaries are more responsive to the policy preferences of the partisan donors in their district than either their primary or general election constituency. As donors take more extreme ideological positions, primary winners take more extreme positions that are further from their district. 

These findings provide evidence that affluent Americans can use their wealth to influence outcomes of the political process. Democratic and Republican House nominees appear to respond inordinately to partisan donors, a group that is disproportionately wealthy and often holds extreme policy views. This unequal response may lead to policy outcomes that favor the wealthy over the middle class and the poor. 


Bafumi, Joseph, and Michael C. Herron. 2010. “Leapfrog Representation and Extremism A Study of American Voters and Their Members in Congress.” American Political Science Review 104(3): 519-42. 

Barber, Michael J. 2016. “Representing the Preferences of Donors, Partisans, and Voters in the US Senate.” Public Opinion Quarterly 80: 225-49. 

Stone, Walter J., and Elizabeth N. Simas. 2010. “Candidate Valence and Ideological Positions in U.S. House Elections.” American Journal of Political Science 54(2): 371-88. 

About the Author: Jordan Kujala is Visiting Assistant Professor at University of California Center Sacramento. The research “Donors, Primary Elections, and Polarization in the United States” ( is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science.

Measuring Trade Profile with Granular Product-level Data

The forthcoming article “Measuring Trade Profile with Granular Product-level Data” ( by In Song Kim, Steven Liao, and Kosuke Imai is summarized by the authors below.
AJPS - FB Posts_Measuring Trade Profile
This paper develops a new dynamic clustering method to effectively summarize two billion observations of product-level international trade data. The proposed method classifies a set of dyads into several clusters based on their similarities in the trade profile, i.e., the product composition of imports and exports. We show that typical dyadic trade relationships evolve from sparse trade to inter-industry trade and then to intra-industry trade while the specific timing for such transition varies significantly by dyads.  Furthermore, this paper develops two novel dyad-year level measures for International Relations research. First, the trade profile measure enables applied researchers to effectively account for changing trade relationships that manifest from product-level trade data. Second, we develop a measure of trade competition that incorporates the extent of competition that each country faces with 
all of its trading partners at the product level.  We apply these measures to examine the network effects of trade competition on the likelihood of signing Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs). The open-source software, dynCluster: Dynamic Clustering Algorithm, is available as an R package for applying the proposed methods to various other dyadic panel data sets.

About the Author(s): In Song Kim is Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Steven Liao is Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of California, Riverside, and Kosuke Imai is Professor, Department of Government and Department of Statistics, Harvard University. Their research “Measuring Trade Profile with Granular Product-Level Data” ( is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science.

Why Underachievers Dominate Secret Police Organizations: Evidence from Autocratic Argentina

The forthcoming article “Why Underachievers Dominate Secret Police Organizations: Evidence from Autocratic Argentina” ( by Adam Scharpf  and Christian Gläßel is summarized by the author(s) below.

AJPS - FB Posts (8)

Who serves in secret police forces? Throughout history, units such as Hitler’s Gestapo, Stalin’s NKVD, or Assad’s Air Force Intelligence Directorate have been at the core of state repression. Secret police agents surveil, torture, and even kill potential enemies within the elite and society at large. Why would anyone do such dirty work for the regime? Are these people sadistic psychopaths, sectarian fanatics, or forced by the regime to terrorize the population? While this may be the case for some individuals, we believe that the typical profile of secret police agents is shaped by the logic of bureaucratic careers.

We develop a theory of careers within the regular security apparatus to understand which individuals have an incentive to join the secret police. Historically, many secret police forces have recruited personnel from the regime’s larger security apparatus—including the military, gendarmeries, the police, and conventional intelligence agencies. The hierarchic and pyramid-shaped structure of these organizations generates organizational bottlenecks. In competition with better qualified peers, officials with weak early performances have little chances of climbing up to the most lucrative positions at the top. For such underachievers the arduous nature of secret police work offers the opportunity to signal their value to the regime and get ahead of competitors for higher positions. We therefore expect that officials, threatened by grim career prospects, are willing to do the regime’s dirty work and become committed secret police agents in the hope that this will provide them with a competitive advantage in the struggle for promotions.

To test our theory, we dissect the clandestine organ of repression at the center of a dictatorship and scrutinize the individual agents who serve in it. Despite the importance and long-lasting consequences of secret police forces for political regimes and domestic societies, the systematic study of such organizations has been hampered by sparse and unreliable information. We draw on the case of autocratic Argentina (1975-83) and its Intelligence Battalion 601—one of the most notorious secret police units in the Western Hemisphere. Combining information from various archival sources, we collect and analyze original micro-level data on the profiles of more than 4,000 military officers who constituted the entire recruitment pool for the Argentine secret police.

We show that those officers who underperformed early on in their careers were indeed more likely to serve in the secret police. Our results also demonstrate why this was the case. Low performers at the academy were less likely to attain advanced training, stuck at middling ranks, and faced a much higher risk of discharge. The resulting career pressure produced the incentive for underachievers to join the secret police. In addition, we find that the Argentine regime willingly exploited these career concerns and placed the most pressured agents in the most repressive unit within the secret police. Finally, we show that secret police service indeed paid off. Agents attained higher ranks and stayed longer in the security apparatus. These career boosting effects were most pronounced for agents with the lowest early career performance.

Taken together, our study identifies mundane but universal career concerns as the prime motivation to engage in arduous secret police work. This has important implications. Career pressures serve as the lubricant of repressive machines in autocracies. Leaders can exploit these incentives to maximize bureaucratic compliance. Institutionalized, meritocratic bureaucracies therefore do not contradict autocratic longevity. Likewise, governments can accomplish swift autocratic turns without major bureaucratic resistance. Officials facing career pressures are likely to serve as willing executioners, while their well-placed peers remain silent bystanders. Finally, our study also points to potential problems with international sanctions and transitional justice. Looming risks of discharge or incarceration are unlikely to deter the least competent agents with the lowest career prospects. To the contrary, external threats of legal punishment might even strengthen the dominance of underachievers with doubtful consequences for the production of violence.

About the Author(s): Adam Scharpf  is Postdoctoral Research Fellow, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies and Christian Gläßel is PhD Candidate, Department of Political Science, and Researcher, Collaborative Research Center, University of Mannheim. Their research “Why Underachievers Dominate Secret Police Organizations: Evidence from Autocratic Argentina” ( is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science.

For Safety or Profit? How Science Serves the Strategic Interests of Private Actors

The forthcoming article “For Safety or Profit? How Science Serves the Strategic Interests of Private Actors” ( by Rebecca Perlman is summarized by the author below.
AJPS - FB Posts (7)
In 2002, the chemical corporation, Syngenta, sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to ban a pesticide that it claimed posed too great a risk to the environment. The catch? Syngenta had previously been the patent-holder and sole-seller of the product. What would lead a company to suddenly disavow its own invention? Was this simply an example of corporate responsibility? 

The paper, “For Safety or Profit? How Science Serves the Strategic Interests of Firms,” shows that companies routinely seek to use public interest regulation to eliminate their own current and discontinued products. The motivation is less altruistic than strategic. By acquiring regulations that ban older, out-of-patent products, innovative companies can make room for their more expensive, patented alternatives. 

Using data on U.S. agrochemical regulations across two decades, as well as data on company-level petitions for regulatory change, the article demonstrates not only that regulations have routinely become stricter on older, less lucrative products but also that companies have actively lobbied for stricter standards on their own less profitable products. An investigation of the history of pesticide regulation in the United States reveals that in addition to requesting stricter standards on a case-by-case basis, innovative companies historically sought regulatory institutions that—while seemingly intended to protect the public from dangerous pesticides—also made it easier for these companies to eliminate the generic competition on a more systematic basis.

About the Author(s): Rebecca Perlman is Assistant Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University. The research “For Safety or Profit? How Science Serves the Strategic Interests of Private Actors” ( is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science.

Peacekeepers Against Criminal Violence – Unintended Effects of UN Peacekeeping Operations?

The forthcoming article “Peacekeepers Against Criminal Violence – Unintended Effects of UN Peacekeeping Operations” ( by Jessica Di Salvatore is summarized by the author(s) below.
Copy of AJPS - FB Posts (3)
One keyword currently dominates the debate around UN peacekeeping: effectiveness. There has been an increasing number of studies showing that United Nations’ peace missions, when sizeable, save lives and contain conflict violence successfully. With mandates largely focused on actors involved in the political struggle, conflict reduction is certainly a valid benchmark to evaluate peace operations. Nonetheless, most conflict and post-conflict societies are plagued by high levels of criminal violence oftentimes perpetrated by actors that escape the attention of UN blue helmets, but that all the same have a detrimental impact on international efforts for stabilization. On the ground, UN missions have repeatedly confronted the problem of rising criminal violence in host countries, and occasionally adapted their mandates with exceptional measures, as UNMIK in Kosovo. The UN is aware of the challenged posed by crime and criminal actors, not only because homicides keep the level of insecurity high but also because of the long-term effects of crime pervasiveness on political and economic development. But can peacekeeping missions contribute not only to reduce conflict but also contain criminal violence? On the one hand, one would expect large international military deployment to deter any form of violence and bring order; on the other hand, mandates neglect criminal actors, which are regarded as a “distraction” and, ultimately, governments’ responsibility.

In the last decade, UN personnel differentiated their roles within missions significantly. Both personnel types are deployed alongside but their functions differ. UN police (UNPOL) is actively involved in capacity building of national counterparts, community patrolling, joint operations with national police and law enforcement. Hence, we would expect UNPOL to curb homicides. UN troops, on the other hand, may unfold more subtle dynamics that inadvertently increase homicide rates. Here are two mechanisms explaining this positive association, one related to security and the other to economic opportunities.

First, by providing a safe environment to civilians, UN troops also provide ‘operational security’ to criminal groups. Organized crime thrives in under-governed spaces more than in anarchic, ungoverned areas. Unpredictability is not good for their business, and UN troops may allow them to free-ride on security while not being actively sought after. Second, peacekeepers’ deployment is associated with the emergence of so-called peacekeeping economies, where opportunity for illicit markets and illegal activities (e.g. transactional sex, drug trafficking) grows. As consequence, criminal groups compete to appropriate these new markets through violence, thus producing higher levels of homicide rates. Besides organized crime, individuals also have incentives to get involved in peacekeeping economies. Former combatants disarmed and demobilized by peacekeepers within nation-wide DDR programs are vulnerable to re-use their fighting skills for criminal purposes.

To explore the relationship between peace missions and criminal violence, I analyse homicide rates in all conflict and post-conflict countries from 1995 to 2012 and then at the subnational level in South Sudan. At both levels of analysis, results consistently show that UN troops are associated with more homicide rates, while UNPOL seems to potentially curb homicides and moderate unintended effects. To rule out the possibility that UN missions spur more crimes (not just homicides), I show that neither troops nor UNPOL have any empirical association with overall crime rates and, more specifically, non-violent crimes. Interestingly, however, the analysis also reports increasing prevalence of organized crime and related felonies in presence of large deployment of UN troops cross-nationally and subnationally, as the theoretical mechanism would predict.

The results of this study should raise awareness on the potential counterproductive dynamics engendered during and, in some cases, by UN peacekeeping missions. Decreasing levels of conflict do not necessarily translate into more secure environments and, thus, success. Paradoxically, UN troops effectiveness and large presence may itself be a reason why organized crime flourishes, given the security and economic benefits their success carries along. It is also possible to envision a more crime-deterrent role for UN troops with mandates that allow them to engage with non-state armed actors not limitedly to insurgents. This happened in past missions. On the bright side, however, UNPOL role can play an important role in containing such intended dynamics; this would require better integration and coordination between different components of peace operations. Last November, Tuesday Reitano, Deputy Director of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, warned the Security Council that “even if peace operations do not actively fight crime, they need to be crime-sensitive, and ensure that criminal groups do not threaten the security of the mission or become peace spoilers”. The undergoing reform initiative Action4Peacekeeping launched by the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, with its aim to broaden the notion of performance, is an opportunity to take new steps in this direction.

About the Author: Jessica Di Salvatore is Assistant Professor in Political Science and Peace Studies at the University of Warwick. The research “Peacekeepers Against Criminal Violence – Unintended Effects of UN Peacekeeping Operations” ( is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science.


The American Journal of Political Science (AJPS) is the flagship journal of the Midwest Political Science Association and is published by Wiley.