An exploratory study on the impact of electoral participation upon a terrorist group’s use of violence in a given year

Stephen McGrath, Paul Gill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Downloads (Pure)


Recent studies seeking to understand the determinants of terrorism tend to focus upon situational, rather than structural measures. Typically these studies examine the interaction of terrorist attacks and repressive state actions. However, we know very little about other situational measures that may impact upon a group’s scale of violent activity within a particular year. This preliminary study analyses terrorist attacks committed by both the Provisional IRA (PIRA) and ETA and the electoral performances of the groups’ political wings, Sinn Fein and Batasuna, from 1970 to 1998 and from 1978 to 2005 respectively. More specifically, this paper examines whether the nature and content of terrorist attacks differ in the build-up to that group’s political-wing participating in elections. In other words, this article is a preliminary study of the influence of electoral participation on attack frequency and target selection. Results suggest that PIRA significantly decreased their attacks in an election year and this had a positive impact upon Sinn Fein’s electoral performance. On the other hand, ETA significantly increased its attacks in an election year and this had no significant impact upon Batasuna’s electoral performance.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPerspectives on Terrorism
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • terrorism
  • election
  • violence
  • target selection

Cite this