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Multiple Measurements, Elusive Agreement, and Unstable Outcomes in the Study of Regime Change

Journal article
Authors H. Lueders
Ellen Lust
Published in Journal of Politics
Volume 80
Issue 2
Pages 736-741
ISSN 0022-3816
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Political Science
Pages 736-741
Language en
Keywords regime change, democratization, liberalization, breakdown, backsliding, democratization, democracy, inequality, elections, dataset
Subject categories Political Science


This comprehensive analysis of regime change indicators reveals that problems of conceptualization and measurement are major reasons why current quantitative research fails to draw compelling conclusions that foster cumulative knowledge. The article first proposes the distinction between two forms of regime changerupture and reformand discusses the specific conceptual and measurement challenges scholars encounter yet largely fail to address when studying either form of change. Second, the article shows that agreement between indicators of regime change is low and driven by focal points such as elections and coups, suggesting that such measures often reflect notable events instead of regime change per se. This implies that indicator choice determines the set of cases for causal inference. Finally, a robustness check of nine articles on regime change published in top journals demonstrates that findings are often not robust to alternative indicators, implying that indicator choice influences the results of quantitative studies.

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