Publication Date


Document Type


Committee Members

Laura Luehrmann, Ph.D. (Advisor); Pramod Kantha, Ph.D. (Committee Member); Vaughn Shannon, Ph.D. (Committee Member)

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


This study identifies three tactics authoritarian leaders use to attempt to effectively coerce their citizens without losing power: 1) performance legitimacy, 2) nationalist legitimacy, and 3) institutional legitimacy. To demonstrate these tactics of what I call “coercive effectiveness,” the author employs a most-different-systems analysis on the regimes of Xi Jinping (2012 2015) and Bashar al-Assad (2000-2004). The author finds that coercion is more likely to be effective under the following conditions: 1) when leaders use economic performance and institutionalist strategies rather than nationalist tactics, 2) when an authoritarian leader climbs the ladder to power rather than inheriting leadership and 3) when a regime is structured around the party rather than those centered on an individual leader. These findings allow policy makers to make more informed decisions for interacting with leaders. For example, the more that a regime centralizes its power, the more likely they will lose their grip on coercion by making themselves the sole target for blame.

Page Count


Department or Program

Department of Political Science

Year Degree Awarded