Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Political Science

Major Professor

Mary Caprioli

Committee Members

David Houston, Anthony Nownes, David Ostermeier


The purpose of this study is to determine which factors affect an ethnonational group's decision to utilize terrorism to obtain their desired outcomes. Current theories have reached an answer, but theoretical underpinnings of those answers are disparate and weak. Thus, in answering this question, a new model of terrorism is necessary - one which spans the four primary levels of analysis. I do this using a weak rational choice model as a cross-level link, and using psychological models as a basis for the individual-level actions.

While the model is not unequivocally and universally supported by the tests, it is able to explain several previous findings in the literature and to explain the counter-intuitive findings regarding democracies.

The model is then applied to two real-life examples, the Ulster Catholics and the Scots, to determine what light it can shed on the differences in outcomes for those not too dissimilar groups. These findings reveal that the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement was doomed to failure because the underlying terrorism action pressure was too great, while the 1998 Good Friday Accord had a much greater probability of success because the terrorism action pressure acting on the Ulster Catholics was significantly lower in the mid-1990s.

Finally, several suggestions are made to reduce the probability of an outbreak of terrorism among a state's ethnonational minorities. While past use of terrorism is, by far, the best indicator of future use, other factors show importance as indicators. The percent of youth in the state, economic differentials, level of democracy in the state, and globalization all increase the probability that the group will become a terrorist group. These results are especially important, especially given the current trends in the world. These trends, namely globalization, increased economic differences within and among states, and the increased number of adolescents in the world, are coming together to create an opportunity to either avert a catastrophic increase in terrorist events, or to allow it to occur.

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