Explaining Support for Political Violence: Grievance and Perceived Opportunity

Journal article

Dyrstad, Karin & Solveig Hillesund (2020) Explaining Support for Political Violence: Grievance and Perceived Opportunity, Journal of Conflict Resolution 64 (9): 1724–1753.

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What explains support for violence against the state? The surge in survey-based studies in (former) conflict areas has improved our understanding of the determinants of armed conflict. Yet, the potential interaction between grievances and political opportunity structure has received little attention in microlevel studies. Integrating common arguments from the civil war literature with the political behavior tradition, this article argues that perceived political efficacy, a central component of the political opportunity structure, moderates the association between individual and group grievance and people’s support for political violence. It represents a first individual-level test of the argument that perceived political opportunity structure and grievances combine to explain internal armed conflict. Using original survey data from Guatemala, Nepal, and Northern Ireland (2016), we find robust empirical evidence that support for violence increases with perceived grievance and decreases with political efficacy; and some evidence of an interaction between the two.

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