Why Do States Intervene

in the Elections of Others


Why do states intervene in elections abroad? We argue that outsiders intervene when the main domestic contenders for office adopt policy positions that differ from the point of view of the outside power. We refer to the split between the government’s and opposition’s positions as policy polarization.  Polarization between domestic political forces, rather than the degree of unfriendliness of the government in office, is what attracts interventions of two types: process (for or against democracy) and candidate (for or against the government) interventions. We provide a novel, original data set to track the policy positions of local contenders. We show that the new policy polarization measurement outperforms a number of available alternatives when it comes to explaining process and candidate interventions. We use it to explain the behavior of the United States as an intervener in elections over the period 1945 to 2012. The United States is more likely to support the opposition, and the democratic process abroad, if a pro-US opposition is facing an anti-US government. It is is more likely to support the government, and undermine the democratic process abroad, if a pro-US government is facing an anti-US opposition. We also present results for all interveners, confirming the results from the US case.  

The paper is published in British Journal of Political Science.  Also available from SSRN.