Welcome to the Journal of Comparative Politics

Comparative Politics, an international journal presenting scholarly articles devoted to the comparative analysis of political institutions and processes, communicates new ideas and research findings to social scientists, scholars, students, and public and NGO officials. The journal is indispensable to experts in universities, research organizations, foundations, embassies, and policymaking agencies throughout the world.

Volume 50, Number 2, January 2018

Fabián A. Borges, Neoliberalism with a Human Face? Ideology and the Diffusion of Latin America’s Conditional Cash Transfers

This article challenges the view that Latin America’s “left turn” was not associated with the adoption of conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs. It is shown that the left initially opposed CCTs, but changed its view after Brazil’s center-left President “Lula” da Silva reluctantly embraced and adapted the CCTs he inherited to emphasize poverty reduction over building human capital. Only once this new model of CCT was developed did the left elsewhere in the region support and adopt CCTs. Thus, ideology did influence the spread of CCTs. Ideology’s impact was, however, conditional on the type of CCT being considered, and the diffusion of CCTs was mediated through ideology. This is supported by research on left-party attitudes, the design of ten programs, and three country case studies.

Sandra Botero, Judges, Litigants, and the Politics of Rights Enforcement in Argentina

Under what conditions can courts produce political and social change? My claim is that courts can be most consequential when they act in concert with other actors to create political spaces for ongoing discussion and engagement with regard to rights. In explaining judicial impact, I focus on the novel and understudied oversight mechanisms—like follow-up committees and public hearings—that some assertive high courts deploy to monitor adherence to some of their rulings. The analysis is based on comparative case studies of two landmark socioeconomic rights cases handed down by the Argentine Supreme Court. I show that the deployment of oversight mechanisms can create institutional spaces where the court, elected leaders, and private and civil society actors converge to generate change, resulting in greater impact.

Michael Wahman and Catherine Boone, Captured Countryside? Stability and Change in Sub-National Support for African Incumbent Parties

We analyze geographic dimensions of African voting to suggest that the salience of previous explanations of vote choice, including clientelism, performance evaluation, and local strong-arming varies across different types of constituencies. Analysis of Government-to-Opposition Swing (GOS) voting in seven countries over time reveals that GOS varies not only across the urban-rural divide but also across different types of rural constituencies. While GOS is uncommon in rural parts of the president’s home region, we discover significant variation across other types of rural constituencies: GOS is most likely in densely-populated rural constituencies and less likely in sparsely-populated rural constituencies that are often among the poorest in the country. We infer that political and economic geography shapes prospects for autonomous vote choice, performance voting, and quality of democracy.

Catherine Lena Kelly, Party Proliferation and Trajectories of Opposition: Comparative Analysis from Senegal

Over the last fifty years, gender quotas have transformed the composition of national legislatures worldwide. But a lack of systematic cross-national longitudinal data limits the questions researchers are able to ask about quotas. This article introduces a new dataset—QAROT (Quota Adoption and Reform Over Time) —the first global dataset on gender quota adoption, implementation, and reform over time. Theoretically, I clarify important issues in extant quota research. The dataset moves beyond traditional categorizations of quota policies with new measures of quota design, quota thresholds, placement mandates, sanctions for non-compliance, and quota effectiveness. I also create a single-variable measure of the presence of an effective quota to be used by comparative politics researchers to control for this powerful institutional feature.

Natalie Wenzell Letsa and Martha Wilfahrt, Popular Support for Democracy in Autocratic Regimes: A Micro-Level Analysis of Preferences

Scholarly opinions diverge as to which citizens in autocratic regimes actually prefer democracy to the status quo. While some argue that citizens with higher levels of socioeconomic status are more likely to prefer democracy because they desire political equality, others argue that the poor should prefer democracy most because they will have more relative power to affect redistributive policies. Analyzing public opinion data for tens of thousands of respondents living in autocracies around the world, we show that all types of citizens in authoritarian countries—rich and poor alike—prefer democracy to autocratic rule. Drawing on two case studies, we also show that political and economic factors are more likely to mobilize different types of people to protest for democracy.

Frank C. Thames, The Electoral System and Women’s Legislative Underrepresentation in Post-Communist Ukraine

In comparison with the global average of democracies, Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, remains well below average in terms of women’s legislative representation. This article attempts to explain Ukraine’s poor record by examining the impact of different electoral systems. Since the first post-Communist election in 1994, Ukraine has used three different electoral systems: majoritarian SMD, MMM, and closed-list PR. By examining the impact of these different systems on women’s representation, we can test for the effect of different institutions on representation while holding political culture constant. The empirical results find that PR systems consistently nominated and elected more women than did the SMD systems. In addition, there is little evidence of gender bias among voters against female candidates in either PR or SMD elections.

Sarah E. Parkinson and Sherry Zaks, Review Article, Militant and Rebel Organization(s)

An emerging trend in research on militant groups asks how structures, dynamics, and relationships within these organizations influence key wartime and postwar outcomes. While the analytical pivot toward organizations advances the field in essential ways, scholars still lack a unified conceptual approach to organization-centric analyses of militancy. This article distills four key dimensions for analysis from organizational sociology: roles, relations, behaviors, and goals. It then reviews four new works on militant organizations and outlines their place in this emergent research trajectory. These books, we argue, underscore how situating research at the organizational level sheds new light on political outcomes such as rebel resilience, social service provision, and deployment of violence. We then highlight two related and promising organizational research agendas for future studies.

Volume 50, Number 1, October 2017

Jeffrey Conroy-Krutz, Loyalty Premiums: Vote Prices and Political Support in a Dominant-Party Regime

While electoral clientelism is common, we know little about what determines vote prices, which often vary significantly within country-elections. Extant literature offers differing predictions of whether supporters of the incumbent or outsiders receive higher-value outlays. I expect past supporters of the incumbent charge higher prices, as their ability to threaten defection helps them extract “loyalty premiums.” Further, incumbent-allied brokers will seek to provide higher payments to followers, to maintain their own networks, while parties will be loath to make high-value payments to outsiders, which might only encourage opponents’ turnout. Analyzing original panel data from Uganda, I find that ruling-party affiliates’ reports of vote prices are significantly higher than others’, suggesting that electoral clientelist strategies reward loyalty, at least in non-competitive settings.

Eun Kyung Kim, Party Strategy in Multidimensional Competition in Africa: The Example of Zambia

Just as voters have ethnic identities, they also have economic interests. Government policies create winners and losers, favoring some economic groups or sectors and disfavoring others. And to the extent that economic interests divide populations into different blocs as ethnic identities do, politicians have options for building coalitions. Using the example of Zambia, I show that the recipes for successful coalition building have varied from election to election, and that shifting bases of partisan competition eventually brought about party turnover in power. With a demonstration of multidimensional party strategies, a clear contribution of the work lies in enhancing our ability to explain partisan change and alternation in power, despite a static ethnic map.

Caroline Beer, Making Abortion Laws in Mexico: Salience and Autonomy in the Policymaking Process

What explains the changing policymaking process for abortion law in Mexico over the past century? From the 1930s until the 1970s, abortion laws across the thirty-two federal entities in Mexico were nearly identical. Between 1979 and 1987, almost half of the states liberalized abortion laws, but very little attention was paid to the reforms. Abortion suddenly emerged as a central polarizing conflict in the aftermath of the 2000 presidential elections that ushered in multiparty democracy. This article provides a comparative analysis of criminal codes and abortion law through time and across the Mexican states. It builds on the theoretical insights of U.S. public policy research on federalism and Mexican research on policymaking to present a comparative framework for understanding policymaking in federal systems. The article argues that policy salience and policy autonomy are key variables for understanding different types of policymaking processes.

David A. Steinberg, Interest Group Pressures and Currency Crises: Argentina in Comparative Perspective

This article develops and tests a political-economy explanation for the most common type of financial crisis: a currency crisis. I argue that currency crises often reflect pressures from powerful interest groups to adopt unsustainable financial policies that generate short-term booms followed by painful currency crises. To test the theory, this article uses a multi-method research design that combines cross-national statistical analyses with a case study of Argentina that draws on extensive primary sources. The quantitative analyses demonstrate that currency crises are more likely in countries with organized labor movements and large industrial sectors, and that imprudent financial policies are an important channel through which interest groups contribute to currency crises. The case study shows that Argentine policymakers adopted crisis-prone policies in response to pressures from the country’s powerful industrialists and labor unions. These findings suggest that interest group pressures help explain why currency crises are so common.

Jody LaPorte, Foreign versus Domestic Bribery: Explaining Repression in Kleptocratic Regimes

This article investigates variation in the governing strategies of wealth-seeking autocrats. Why do some kleptocrats grant political opponents significant leeway to organize, while others enforce strict limits on such activities? Through detailed analysis of post-Soviet Georgia and Kazakhstan, I trace variation in the intensity of repression back to differences in the sources of rulers’ illegal wealth. I argue that where rulers’ wealth is accumulated from society, they are constrained in their treatment of wealthy opposition leaders. In contrast, rulers who can extract bribes from foreign companies based on natural resource wealth can pursue aggressive repression without jeopardizing their illicit profits. The findings underscore the importance of rulers’ motives and informal institutions in shaping non-democratic regime outcomes.

Lawrence P. Markowitz, Beyond Kompromat: Coercion, Corruption, and Deterred Defection in Uzbekistan

Kompromat, or compromising material used against political elites, is widely considered to be essential in shoring up authoritarian durability. While it is useful in preempting or penalizing individual challengers, however, kompromat is a highly targeted and selective tool that does little to deter widespread elite defection in authoritarian regimes in the middle of a crisis. Instead, where autocrats have previously contracted on violence—coopted security for their use in repression—ruler concessions concentrate rent seeking under the national executive, creating winner-take-all stakes that makes defection prohibitively risky. Through the example of Uzbekistan’s regime durability during the 2005 Andijan uprising, this article examines the effect of this political economy of coercion on deterring elite defection.

Nicholas Rush Smith, Review Article, The Rule of Rights: Comparative Lessons from Twenty Years of South African Democracy

Reviewing four books on South African politics, this article explains outsize scholarly interest in South Africa by referencing contradictions of its democratic transition—contradictions that provide generalizable insights on democratization, law, and rights. Broadly, the literature suggests that rights form the foundation of robust democracies by stabilizing political systems, reducing violence, and lessening inequality. By contrast, proliferating rights in South Africa have had contradictory effects and, unexpectedly, enable political disorder. Ordinary citizens use South Africa’s expansive rights guarantees to make claims for greater social justice. Yet, citizens also use contrasting meanings of rights to justify violence against others, particularly foreigners. To explain these contradictory usages of rights, the article advances a meaning-making approach to the study of rights.

Volume 49, Number 4, July 2017

Jorge Antonio Alves and Wendy Hunter, From Right to Left in Brazil’s Northeast: Transformation, or “Politics as Usual”?

How does political change occur in subnational units of federal systems? Long under conservative rule, Brazil’s state of Bahia has experienced the recent electoral rise of the Workers’ Party (PT). How has the left party wrested control from the right? Challenging previous studies, which focus on establishing new organizational networks, we emphasize the traditional leveraging of linkages to higher levels of government and forging of pragmatic alliances. Marked parallels between PT strategies in contemporary Bahia and those of the old political machine suggest the pursuit of a territorially segmented strategy to penetrate different subnational units. The PT, which had hoped to transform the existing system, was instead changed by it. Segmentation allowed the PT to win office but at the cost of its transformational project.

Laura Gamboa, Opposition at the Margins: Strategies against the Erosion of Democracy in Colombia and Venezuela

This article argues that the goals and strategies the opposition uses against presidents with hegemonic aspirations are critical to understand why some leaders successfully erode democracy, while others fail. Using interviews and archival research, I trace the dynamics of erosion in Alvaro Uribe’s (Colombia) and Hugo Chávez’s (Venezuela) administrations. I show that during the first years of these governments, the opposition in both countries had some institutional leverage. The Colombian opposition used that leverage. It resorted to institutional and moderate extra-institutional strategies, which protected its institutional resources and allowed it to eventually stop Uribe’s second reelection reform. The Venezuelan opposition forsook that leverage and chose radical extra-institutional strategies instead. The latter cost it the institutional resources it had and helped Chávez advance more radical reforms.

Veronica Herrera, From Participatory Promises to Partisan Capture: Local Democratic Transitions and Mexican Water Politics

Scholarship on participatory institutions has emphasized participatory institutional uptake, but not their long-term sustainability. Through an analysis of citizen water boards in two Mexican cities, this article presents a causal pathway argument from pluralism to partisan capture. This article argues that support for participatory institutions is high for opposition parties who have historically been locked out of power because participatory institutional change can help outsider parties undermine entrenched ties that benefit incumbent parties. However, when challenging parties become incumbents, their preferences for supporting participatory institutions may change as participatory service delivery institutions become venues for dissent as well as represent political spoils that can be used to consolidate party control. These findings reveal a disturbing tension between democratization and participatory institution building in Mexico and beyond.

Benjamin G. Bishin and Feryal M. Cherif, Women, Property Rights, and Islam

To what extent do conventional explanations of women’s rights, such as religion, culture, core rights, and advocacy, help to explain the status of women’s rights in Muslim majority countries? Religion and patriarchal culture are commonly cited to explain the persistence of gender inequality. While often overlooked, the study of property rights offers leverage for differentiating between religious and cultural explanations of women’s status given their different prescriptions regarding the acquisition and management of property. Examining developing and Muslim majority countries, we find that patriarchal norms, more so than religion, constitute the main barrier to gender equality. Further, we find that core rights like women’s access to education and, to a lesser degree, norms-building by women’s rights groups best explain where women enjoy effective property rights.

Alejandro Bonvecchi and Emilia Simison, Legislative Institutions and Performance in Authoritarian Regimes

The literature on authoritarian regimes assumes legislatures are inconsequential because dictators ultimately retain their hold on power. We challenge this assumption arguing that legislatures embedded in power-sharing arrangements are costly to ignore, their design affects lawmaking patterns, and they are more influential when executives are collective, rather than personal. We test these arguments on a case for which complete records exist: the Legislative Advisory Commission in Argentina’s last military dictatorship. Our findings show that the combination of tripartite power-sharing by the armed forces, a collective executive, shared legislative power, and decentralized agenda power led to higher rates of government legislative defeats and bill amendments than typical in authoritarian regimes. These findings support the theory that legislatures under authoritarianism are more influential when power-sharing arrangements include collective executives.

Michael Ahn Paarlberg, Transnational Militancy: Diaspora Influence over Electoral Activity in Latin America

Politicians in many countries campaign among citizens residing abroad, even though migrants have extremely low rates of participation or, in some cases, no right to vote at all. What benefit, then, does a foreign-residing, non-voting electorate provide parties? Politicians interviewed in Mexico, El Salvador, and the Dominican Republic express belief that migrants influence the votes of relatives in their home countries by sending remittances. Using a series of hierarchical models, I test whether this is true, by estimating the effect of having U.S.-residing relatives on a set of seven political activities of Latin American voters. I find migrants do influence their relatives; however, this influence does not affect basic level voter participation, but rather reinforces existing partisan sympathies and motivates activities typical of party militants.

Jeremy Menchik, Review Article, The Constructivist Approach to Religion and World Politics

The new generation of scholarship on religion and world politics is moving beyond the flawed paradigms of the past. The author explains why classic secularization theory is widely doubted before evaluating books that represent the three approaches of the most recent research. The newest entry, the “constructivist” approach, is examined in depth; it draws on social theory and cultural anthropology to better theorize secularism as an analytical category and to explain how (religious) ideas and actors shape major political outcomes. The “revising secularization” approach modifies classic secularization theory. The “religious economies” approach marries rational choice with the economic sociology of religion. The author discusses the strengths and weaknesses of all three approaches while arguing against the search for a grand theory of religion.

Volume 49, Number 3, April 2017

Special Issue: Civil Society and Democracy in an Era of Inequality

Michael Bernhard, Tiago Fernandes, and Rui Branco, Introduction: Civil Society and Democracy in an Era of Inequality

Ekrem Karakoç, A Theory of Redistribution in New Democracies: Income Disparity in New Democracies in Europe

Why is it that new democracies have difficulty generating income equality? This article argues that low voter turnout and weak political party system institutionalization increase targeted spending. This in turn has an effect on income inequality because social spending rewards privileged social groups to the detriment of the disadvantaged. The argument is tested across six new and fifteen long-standing democracies in Europe using a panel-data analysis. It finds that low turnout by the poor and weak party institutionalization increase targeted spending, which in turn decreases economic equality. The analysis also finds that high voter turnout moderates the negative effect of electoral volatility on targeted spending.

Grzegorz Ekiert, Jan Kubik, and Michal Wenzel, Civil Society and Three Dimensions of Inequality in Post-1989 Poland

This article presents three novel arguments regarding the role of civil society in the democratic transformation of Poland. First, under communism, associational life was neither extinct nor always totally controlled by the state. Over time, some organizations achieved a modicum of autonomy. The massive Solidarity movement left a legacy of civic engagement that influenced post-1989 developments. Second, inequality under state socialism needs to be treated comprehensively. While the level of income inequality was modest, economic inequality was more pronounced (privileges of the communist elites). Civic and political inequalities were acute. All three forms of inequality generated discontent and mobilization. Third, after 1989, civil society has become an institutional vehicle for virtually eliminating political inequality, advancing civic equality, and controlling the growth of economic inequality.

Mark R. Beissinger, “Conventional” and “Virtual” Civil Societies in Autocratic Regimes

In recent years many non-democracies have witnessed the rapid growth of new social media that have, in a number of instances, become vehicles for civic activism, even in the presence of anemic “conventional” civil society association. Using evidence from Russia, Tunisia, Egypt, and Ukraine, this article explores the implications of “virtual” civil society for opposition politics in autocratic regimes. The rise of “virtual” civil society potentially presents autocratic regimes with new challenges for control over the streets. But a robust “virtual” civil society combined with a weak “conventional” civil society has a series of less positive consequences for oppositional politics, reinforcing weak political organization, breeding a false sense of representativeness, diluting collective identities within oppositions, and rendering mobilization over extended periods of time more difficult.

Michael Bernhard and Dong-Joon Jung, Civil Society and Income Inequality in Post-Communist Eurasia

This article argues that the strength of civil society at the point of extrication from communism is a powerful predictor of how “liberal democratic” post-communist regimes become. This is based on the impact that an engaged civil society has on the reconfiguration of post-communist elites and the degree to which the model of accumulation permits concentration of resources in the hands of previous elites. In cases where civil society was engaged at the moment of extrication, the elite were disposed to a more liberal model of capitalism which afforded greater social welfare protection. Where civil society was weaker, the elite were able to convert political power into concentrated control of economic assets and a more predatory and inegalitarian model of political capitalism emerged.

Robert M. Fishman, How Civil Society Matters in Democratization: Setting the Boundaries of Post-Transition Political Inclusion

This article offers a new perspective on how civil society matters in democratization, arguing that its impact is felt long after the end of regime transition. Whereas some analyses focus exclusively on the organizational impact of institutionalized actors, this article also examines the significance of social movement protest and argues that the cultural legacies of civil society’s transition-era role help to determine whether organizationally weak and resource-poor actors will be able to gain a hearing in new democracies. Although the objectives of this article are fundamentally theoretical, it builds empirically on the strategically chosen paired comparison of Portugal and Spain, two countries that moved from authoritarianism to democracy through polar opposite pathways.

Tiago Fernandes and Rui Branco, Long-Term Effects: Social Revolution and Civil Society in Portugal, 1974–2010

Do democratic social revolutions strengthen civil society in the long-run? We answer this question by comparing the trajectories of three civil society sectors (social welfare organizations, neighborhood associations, and unions) in democratic Portugal. We argue that the degree of inclusiveness of the institutions of the previous authoritarian regime shaped the type of revolutionary elites available for alliances with civil society during the revolutionary crisis. More inclusionary authoritarian institutions promoted the emergence of a more pluralistic opposition to the dictatorship, thus generating future revolutionary leaderships prone to empowering emerging popular civil society organizations. Inversely, exclusionary and repressive institutions spawned a narrow and secretive opposition and subsequent revolutionary elite bent on hierarchical top-down control thereby disempowering civil society in the long-run.

Volume 49, Number 2, January 2017

Sarah Sunn Bush and Eleanor Gao, Small Tribes, Big Gains: The Strategic Uses of Gender Quotas in the Middle East

Why do some political actors nominate women more than others in the Muslim world? This article argues that certain social groups have an instrumental demand for female candidates because they believe such candidates will enhance their electoral chances in the wake of gender quotas’ adoption. Looking at Jordan, it hypothesizes that small tribes can make big gains by nominating women due to the design of the country’s reserved seat quota. This argument complements existing perspectives on women’s (under-)representation in the Muslim world, which emphasize the role of features of the culture, economy, or religion. The analysis of original data on Jordan’s local elections and tribes supports the argument. The article’s findings have implications for our understanding of women’s representation, tribal politics, and authoritarian elections.

Brandon Van Dyck, The Paradox of Adversity: New Left Party Survival and Collapse in Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina

Strong parties are critical for democracy, but under what conditions do strong parties emerge? Paradoxically, adverse conditions may facilitate successful party-building. Office-seekers with low access to state resources and mass media must undertake the difficult work of organization-building to contend for power. Because organization-building is slow, laborious, sometimes risky, and usually non-remunerative, the process selects for ideologically committed activists. Low state and media access thus facilitates the construction of durable parties—and is empirically associated with opposition to authoritarian rule. The article illustrates this argument through a comparison of three recently emerged left-wing parties in Latin America: two that survived early electoral crises, Brazil’s Workers’ Party and Mexico’s Party of the Democratic Revolution, and one that did not, Argentina’s Front for a Country in Solidarity.

Dorothee Bohle and Wade Jacoby, Lean, Special, or Consensual? Vulnerability and External Buffering in the Small States of East-Central Europe

This article embeds the small state experiences in East Central Europe into the broader comparative political economy literature. These broader debates have developed three propositions—one about the need for liberal orthodoxy in small, vulnerable states, a second about special forms of comparative advantage such small states might develop, and the third about the capacities of small states to adapt through consultation and compensation. We demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses of each in East Central Europe, and we then analyze a key scope condition for small states’ successful adaptation, namely the buffering function from the international system. Existing literature overemphasizes the impact of domestic strategies and downplays the contribution of the international system when accounting for small states’ successes (and failures) in recovering after major shocks. Only when domestic strategies are supported (rather than undercut) by external factors can small states recover and adapt.

Güneş Murat Tezcür and Mehmet Gurses, Ethnic Exclusion and Mobilization: The Kurdish Conflict in Turkey

Why does ethnicity become politically salient and the basis of mobilization for some members of a disadvantaged group but not for others? This article suggests that members of a disadvantaged ethnic group are unlikely to support ethnic mobilization as long as they perceive the channels of personal mobility in the political system open. It builds upon an original dataset of biographical information of 2,952 governors, ministers, and judges in Turkey. The results show that support for Kurdish ethno-mobilization and recruitment into the Kurdish insurgency remain low in Kurdish localities with greater representation in the echelons of political power. This finding supports institutional approach to the study of ethnicity and demonstrates the importance of state recruitment patterns in shaping the political saliency of ethnic identity.

Todd A. Eisenstadt and Karleen Jones West, Opinion, Vulnerability, and Living with Extraction on Ecuador’s Oil Frontier: Where the Debate Between Development and Environmentalism Gets Personal

While economic structural arguments have long explained pro-environment attitudes in affluent, developed countries, these arguments are insufficient in poorer developing nations, where citizens may feel more vulnerable to ecosystem change. Using a nationwide survey of environmental dispositions in Ecuador, we argue that vulnerability to environmental changes and proximity to resource extraction are instrumental in shaping environmental concern. We claim that vulnerability to environmental change enhances concern over the environment. We also argue that a respondent’s proximity to where extraction has occurred or is under consideration also increases their environmental concern. Our survey analysis strongly supports our hypotheses, leading us to conclude that attitudes based on self-interest rather than normative values may be easier for policymakers to draw upon in devising policy reforms.

Matthew Rhodes-Purdy, Beyond the Balance Sheet: Performance, Participation, and Regime Support in Latin America

This article examines incongruities between policy performance and regime support in Chile and Venezuela. Democratic theory and political psychology suggest that intrinsic characteristics of regime procedures, especially the extent to which those procedures provide citizens with a meaningful political role, can influence support independently of policy outcomes. I find that Chile’s elitist democracy has created an enervated populace, leading to anemic support. Conversely, Venezuela’s provisions for direct participatory opportunities help to legitimate the Bolivarian regime, in spite of its authoritarian tendencies, by encouraging a sense of control and efficacy among its citizens.

Henry Thomson, Food and Power: Agricultural Policy under Democracy and Dictatorship

Political interventions in agricultural markets have significant effects on development outcomes. Although dictatorships have been found to follow urban-biased policies, which decrease the price of agricultural produce, this finding does not fully explain variation in agricultural policy across regime type. I argue that policy under autocracy is a function of the power of producers and consumers to organize collectively and threaten a regime, while democratic governments respond to electoral incentives for redistribution. I analyze policy outcomes in 56 countries between 1963 and 2002 and find that democracies increase returns to farmers compared to autocracies. However, autocracies provide greater levels of support to farmers when landholding inequality or income inequality is high. Urbanization is associated with lower rates of assistance to agriculture under dictatorship versus democracy.