There is a long-running disagreement about how regime type affects a country’s ability to project resolve. Specifically, there is an open question about whether being a democracy helps or hurts a country’s reputation for resolve. I consider this question by directly estimating a state’s reputation for resolve using a unified theoretical and statistical approach. To be precise, I derive an empirical model from a dynamic game of continuous-time bargaining where each side fights in order to build a reputation for resolve. I then fit this model using data on the duration and termination of civil conflicts between 1946 and 2009. I find that while governments tend to have stronger reputations for resolve than the rebels they face, democracies are seen as much less likely to be resolved both prior to and during conflict than their autocratic counterparts. Likewise, democracies are more likely to end a conflict by making a policy change in favor of the rebels than autocracies. Despite these differences, both democracies and autocracies experience a discrete increase in their reputations for resolve once conflict begins, with democracies receiving a much larger boost. As such, these findings contrast with a large literature on democratic credibility theory, while simultaneously providing evidence consistent with some of the logic behind democratic credibility theory.
This was originally published on SAGE Publications Ltd: Journal of Peace Research: Table of Contents.