Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Political Science


Political Science

First Advisor

Timothy Nordstrom

Second Advisor

Mike Henderson

Third Advisor

Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez

Relational Format



State capacity scholars contend that a state's capabilities objectively predict its likelihood of civil conflict onset. The state capacity literature argues that the likelihood of civil conflict increases when military strength, regime revenue, and/or political institution coherence decrease. However, for this theoretical causal linkage to hold, the state capacity literature must assume that prospective rebels possess complete regime capabilities information; whereas, prospective rebels will know to rebel when the regime has a sufficiently weak, low revenue, and/or an incoherent political institution. I begin my dissertation by contending that incomplete information is more indicative of prospective rebels' informational abilities. Next, I consider how incomplete information changes the rebellion decision calculation for prospective rebels; prospective rebels use perception of the regime's capabilities, not actual capabilities, to determine whether or not to rebel. Incorporating aspects from literatures and fields not typically associated with civil conflict, I hypothesize that two mass media dimensions, media freedom and media access, have a significant interactive effect on how prospective rebels perceive the regime's capabilities which influences a state's probability of civil conflict. Using a logistic regression, I empirically examine Media Interaction with established civil conflict literature variables on all states from 1993 to 2004. Over a series of models, predicted probabilities estimations, and a controlled experiment, I determine two novel findings: 1) mass media significantly impacts the likelihood of civil conflict under certain conditions and 2) the state capacity literature's objective assumption misses important civil conflict onset variance.



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