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Does Counterinsurgent Success Match Social Support? Evidence from a Survey Experiment in Colombia


  • Aila Matanock

    (University of California, Berkeley)

  • Miguel García-Sánchez

    (Universidad de los Andes)


Studies of civil conflict show that insurgencies require social support from civilians to prosper. But these studies’ findings are inconsistent with survey data from many conflict contexts, which routinely show consistently strong support for the counterinsurgents, even in areas of insurgent success. How can we explain this discrepancy? This study builds on the intuition that individuals may feel social pressure, and even fear, that encourages them to report consistently strong support for the military when asked directly—but that this pressure lessens when asked indirectly in a way that allows individuals to conceal their response. Support for the military should thus be lower when measured indirectly than directly, and the difference should be largest where individuals rely on an illegal organization or an illicit activity for their livelihood. We test the theory by randomizing direct and indirect survey questions—specifically a list experiment—in a face-to-face survey conducted in Colombia. An earlier version (July 2016) appeared under the title “Controlling Civilians? Examining Support for the Military in Colombia†.

Suggested Citation

  • Aila Matanock & Miguel García-Sánchez, 2017. "Does Counterinsurgent Success Match Social Support? Evidence from a Survey Experiment in Colombia," Empirical Studies of Conflict Project (ESOC) Working Papers 3, Empirical Studies of Conflict Project.
  • Handle: RePEc:pri:esocpu:3

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    More about this item


    Colombia; Violence; Political Development; Public Opinion;

    JEL classification:

    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions
    • F51 - International Economics - - International Relations, National Security, and International Political Economy - - - International Conflicts; Negotiations; Sanctions

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