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Secessionist social services reduce the public costs of civilian killings: Experimental evidence from the United States and the United Kingdom

Date: 17/12/2018

Author(s): D.J. Flynn, Megan A. Stewart

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How do international audiences evaluate the legitimacy of secessionist insurgencies? Although secessionists often propagate their behavioral choices, such as state-building and non-violence, to international audiences in the hopes of generating support, scholars know little about the effects of this information. In this article, we use survey experiments in the United States and the United Kingdom to examine how international audiences respond to two commonly used strategies of secession: civilian killings and social service provision. We find that international audiences view secessionists who avoid civilian killings and provide social services as more legitimate than secessionists who kill civilians and do not provide services, respectively. Further, we show that service provision can allow secessionists to reduce—and, in some cases, eliminate—the public costs of civilian killings. These findings have important implications for ongoing secessionist conflicts across the globe.