Political Trust, Shocks, and Accountability: Quasi-experimental Evidence from a Rebel Attack

Scott Gates, Mogens Kamp Justesen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


How does armed conflict affect accountability and political trust in democratic governments? To answer this question, we present quasi-experimental evidence based on survey data which, coincidentally, were collected in the days surrounding an unanticipated violent attack by a rebel group in Mali. The chance occurrence of the attack five days into the survey demarcates respondents into two groups surveyed before and after the attack and allows us to examine how the attack affected approval of politicians and trust in political institutions. Our results show that people mainly attribute responsibility to the president and not to parliament or local government, while trust in institutions is largely unaffected. We also show that these effects are strongest in the region of the attack. These findings suggest that voters in new democracies are capable of attributing responsibility to individual politicians and governments while maintaining trust in the fundamental political institutions of democracy.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Conflict Resolution
Issue number9
Pages (from-to)1693-1723
Number of pages31
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


  • Civil wars
  • Conflict
  • Democratic institutions
  • Domestic politics
  • Africa
  • Insurgency
  • Quasi experiment
  • Public opinion

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