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Beyond Democracy-Dictatorship Measures: A New Framework Capturing Executive Bases of Power, 1789–2016

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 February 2019


We attempt to integrate the literatures on authoritarian regime types and democratic forms of government. We propose a theoretical framework of five dimensions of executive appointment and dismissal that can be applied in both more democratic and more authoritarian regimes: the hereditary, military, ruling party, direct election, and confidence dimensions, respectively. Relying on the Varieties of Democracy data, we provide measures of these five dimensions for 3,937 individual heads of state and 2,874 heads of government from 192 countries across the globe from 1789 to the present. After presenting descriptive evidence of their prevalence, variation, and relationship to extant regime typologies, a set of exploratory probes gauge the extent to which the five dimensions can predict levels of repression, corruption, and executive survival, controlling for aspects of democracy. This leads to generation of a set of original hypotheses that we hope can serve as building blocks for explanatory theory. We conclude by discussing some limitations of these novel data.

Copyright © American Political Science Association 2019 

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*Data replication sets are available in Harvard Dataverse at

A list of permanent links to Supplementary Materials provided by the authors precedes the References section.

The authors would like to thank Per Andersson, Thomas Brambor, John Gerring, Jennifer Gandhi, Karl Henrik Knutsen, Johannes Lindvall, Anna Lührman, Katherine Michel, Andreas Schedler, and four anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper. Invaluable research assistance in collecting the V-Dem data on executives was provided by Vlad Ciobanu, Talib Jabbar, and Swaantje Marten. This research project was supported by Swedish Research Council Grant 421-2014-1283; Riksbankens Jubileumsfond Program Grant M13-0559:1; Riksbankens Jubileumsfond Program Grant M14-0087:1; Knut and Alice Wallenberg Academy Fellow Staffan I. Lindberg, Grant 2013.0166; and internal grants from the Vice-Chancellor’s office, the Dean of the College of Social Sciences, and the Department of Political Science at University of Gothenburg.


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