Winning Coalition Size, State Capacity, and Time Horizons: An Application of Modified Selectorate Theory to Environmental Public Goods Provision

Xun Cao, Hugh Ward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Scopus citations


Selectorate theory proposes that authoritarian regimes supply fewer public goods than democracies. Smaller winning coalitions make it less costly for autocracies to maintain support among critical groups by providing private goods. Democracies, with large winning coalitions, find it cheaper to provide public goods. In contrast, we argue for a conditional effect of winning coalition size on public good provisions: Many public goods require considerable state capacity to plan, legislate, and implement. Moreover, leaders with short-term horizons are unlikely to invest in public goods that take considerable time to provide. Therefore, our modified selectorate theory suggests that governments will provide public goods if the size of the winning coalition is large enough, state capacity is great enough, and a priori regime durability is long enough. We test our theory on air pollution. While selectorate theory receives little empirical support, our findings cohere with modified selectorate theory. In particular, core democracies-defined as those with large winning coalitions, considerable state capacity, and high regime stability-perform better than autocracies in controlling air pollution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)264-279
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Studies Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations

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