Political Science, Department of


Date of this Version



Journal of Conflict Resolution (June 1999) 43(3): 388-402.


Copyright 1999, Sage. Used by permission.


This study explores the relative propensity of democratic and autocratic regimes to engage in diversionary behavior. Although previous research has focused on the willingness of leaders to engage in conflict, recent studies suggest an alternative explanation: the effect of strategic interaction opportunities. Previous studies suggest that even though democratic leaders may have an incentive to use foreign policy to manipulate domestic audiences, would-be adversaries limit their interaction opportunities. This article extends the analysis to a comparison of the behavior of democratic and autocratic regimes. Using three different indicators of the domestic political vulnerability of leaders—economic growth rates, protests, and rebellions—the results indicate that democratic leaders are apparently more affected by strategic interaction opportunities than their autocratic counterparts.