Batons and ballots: The effectiveness of state violence in fighting against Catalan separatism

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What are the consequences of police brutality in fighting against the Catalan secessionist movement? While Spanish authorities resorted to violence with the hope that forceful action would deter further support for separatism, recent studies of repression argue that state violence tends to backfire. I test these two plausible arguments in the context of non-lethal police brutality to prevent an illegal self-determination referendum. For this, I combine data of the local distribution of police violence during the referendum and the official results of the subsequent regional elections. Because police forces were not deployed randomly, I employ a difference-in-differences estimation with matching to evaluate the electoral consequences of violence. The results show no clear evidence that police brutality affected support for separatism or electoral mobilization in the areas that it was deployed. The lack of a clear effect sets an agenda for future research in the investigation of the conditions under which state violence affects dissenting movements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalResearch and Politics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2018


  • Conflict
  • belief structure
  • public opinion
  • separatism
  • state violence
  • voting behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Political Science and International Relations


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