Prosecuting Political Violence: Collaborative Research and Method

What tactic to choose?: Examining the relationship between ideological affiliation and tactic choice

This post continues our series sharing pre-publication versions of chapter introductions in our upcoming book titled “Prosecuting Political Violence: Collaborative Research and Method”

Chapter 5

What tactic to choose?: Examining the relationship between ideological affiliation and tactic choice
by Elizabeth Springer

When committing an act of political violence, a person’s motivations and the message they seek to emphasize can influence their tactic choice. In the Prosecution Project (tPP) dataset, the types of a defendant’s tactic choices range from explosives, to vehicle ramming, to civilian arms, and more. Within the means of this large variation in tactic choices and ideological affiliations, the author can exploit this variation to look at the relationships between tactic choices and ideological affiliations. These relationships provide insight into the decision-making process of an individual who looks to commit a crime to further their political agenda.

In this chapter, Springer looks to use econometric techniques to examine this relationship between tactic choice and ideological affiliation. The author then analyzes these two techniques and their results in order to look at potential policy responses. The purpose of this analysis entails determining if defendants who belong to certain ideological affiliations have an affinity to use a certain tactic choice over others. In order to do this, the author uses two analytical techniques to accomplish this task: a correlation analysis and a logit model analysis. The correlation analysis looks at the correlations between each ideological affiliation and each tactic choice. The correlation analysis is primarily used to examine the strength of the relationship and how it relates a particular ideological affiliation and tactic choice to the defendants in this dataset. The logit model, on the other hand, looks at the relation- ship between ideological affiliation and tactic choice through a probability analysis. The logit analysis models the probability that a defendant holds a certain ideological affiliation dependent on their tactic choice and other demographics from the dataset including age and gender.

From both types of analysis, the author finds that most ideological affiliations have a strong, distinct, and positive relationship with one tactic choice as well as a strong and distinct negative relationship with one tactic choice. One example of this relationship analysis is the strong relationship between the Salafi/Jihadist/Islamist ideological affiliation and the material support tactic choice. Another example of a strong relationship can be seen with the Leftist: eco-animal ideological affiliation and the improvised incendiary devices tactic choice. An example of a strong negative relationship occurs between the Salafi/Jihadist/Islamist ideological affiliation and the hostage-taking tactic choice. Overall, in this chapter, strong relationships occur between the ideological affiliation of a defendant and their tactic choice. In addition, using the logit model enables readers to see the probability of a defendant belonging to a certain ideological affiliation dependent on their choice of tactic.

Springer’s chapter demonstrates a data-driven analysis in the hopes that future researchers can help advance their own data analytic techniques. With the tPP data- set, the author employs econometric techniques that can be used to analyze data and draw conclusions with regard to how ideological affiliation and tactic choice of defendants are related. The use of econometric techniques and the results that come from the analysis can help undergraduates consider policy implications for their own analysis and continue to see how data analysis can help reinforce or oppose previously held beliefs.

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