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The Partisan Politics of Counterterrorism. Reputations, Policy Transparency, and Electoral Outcomes

The prevention of terrorist attacks is an important concern for many governments. In democracies, officials also fear the electoral consequences of successful attacks. As a result, counterterrorism policy-making and electoral concerns are tightly intertwined. To understand the implications of this link, I develop a game-theoretic model and show that left-wing incumbents respond to terror threats more aggressively than their right-wing counterparts in order to convince voters that they can be trusted in fighting terrorism. Terrorist attacks improve right-wing incumbents’ reputation, while they worsen the reputation of left-wing incumbents. When the terrorist threat is high, voters ignore right-wing incumbents’ reputation, reelecting them independently of their performance. Finally, I consider the strategic consequences of maintaining counterterrorism policies hidden from the public eye.

Di Lonardo, L., 2019. The partisan politics of counterterrorism: reputations, policy transparency, and electoral outcomes. Political Science Research and Methods, 7(2), pp.253-269.