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Retesting Selectorate Theory: Separating the Effects of W from Other Elements of Democracy

  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 August 2008

Kevin Clarke and Randall Stone (2008) offer a methodological critique of some of our tests of the selectorate theory in The Logic of Political Survival (Bueno de Mesquita et al. 2003). We accept their critique of residualization for control variables in those tests, but reject the contention that the size of the winning coalition does not predict the provision of public goods and private benefits. We present new tests that control for elements of democracy other than W and that do not use residualization. These new tests show that selectorate theory is strongly and robustly supported. Our measure of the size of the winning coalition is in the theoretically predicted direction and is statistically significant for 28 out of 31 different public goods and private benefits. Aspects of democracy not contained in the selectorate theory explain less of the variance than does the theory's core factor, namely, winning coalition size, for 25 of the 31 public goods and private benefits.

Corresponding author
James D. Morrow is Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Michigan, 5700 Haven Hall, 505 South State Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1045. Email:
Bruce Bueno de Mesquita is the Julius Silver Professor of Politics, Department of Politics, New York University, 19 West 4th Street, New York, NY 10012 and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-6010. Email: and
Randolph M. Siverson is Professor, Department of Political Science, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA 95616. Email:
Alastair Smith is Professor, Department of Politics, New York University, 19 West 4th Street, New York, NY 10012. Email:
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Kevin A Clarke . 2005. “The Phantom Menace: Omitted Variable Bias in Econometric Research.” Conflict Management and Peace Science 22 (4): 341–52.

Keith Jaggers and Ted Robert Gurr . 1995. “Tracking Democracy's Third Wave with the Polity III Data.” Journal of Peace Research 32: 469–82.

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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
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