Date of Original Version
Democratic leaders are more prone to domestic sanction following defeats, and these audience costs allow democracies to signal their intentions during public disputes. Empirical tests strongly support this relationship; however, recent criticisms have questioned whether the causal mechanisms of audience costs are responsible for these findings. We provide a unified rationale for why both arguments are correct: democracies rarely contend over territorial issues, a consistently salient and contentious issue. Without these issues, leaders are unable to generate audience costs but are able to choose easy conflicts. Our reexaminations of threat-based and reciprocation-based studies support this argument. We also present tests of within-dispute behavior using MID incident data, which confirms that the salience of territory matters more than regime type when predicting militarized behavior. Any regime differences suggest a disadvantage for democratic challengers over territorial issues, and any peace between democracies results from the dearth of salient issues involving these regimes.
Douglas M. Gibler and Marc L. Hutchison, "Territorial Issues, Audience Costs, and the Democratic Peace: The Importance of Issue Salience," The Journal of Politics 75, no. 4 (October 2013): 879-893.
Available at: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0022381613000923