Policy Failure and Political Survival: The Contribution of Political Institutions

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, James D. Morrow, Randolph M. Siverson, Alastair Smith

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The authors advance a theory of the effects of political institutions on state policy. The theory explains how political institutions affect the ability of leaders to maintain themselves in office, why some political systems are more prone to policy failure than others, and why autocrats create mass political systems. The key characteristics of institutions in this theory are the sizes of a polity's selectorate and winning coalition. The authors derive hypotheses from the theory and test those hypotheses using a data set covering more than 2,700 leaders from all states in the period from 1816 to 1990. The statistical tests demonstrate that (1) large winning coalitions are associated with enhanced economic growth, (2) tenure is shortened by a large winning coalition but lengthened by a large selectorate, and (3) in the face of policy failure, leaders with a large selectorate are more likely to survive than those in systems with a large winning coalition. The authors conclude by discussing the implications of these results.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)147-161
    Number of pages15
    JournalJournal of Conflict Resolution
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Apr 1999

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Business, Management and Accounting
    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Political Science and International Relations


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